Same parish, different challenge for Hyde at Sporting
TOLL GATE, Clarendon — Just when you thought it was over, the football 'bromance' between Lenny Hyde and Clarendon is set for yet another chapter.
Less than a month after resigning from Humble Lion, Hyde and his long-time assistant Max Straw were chosen to fill the vacant coaching position at neighbours Sporting Central Academy, but are already playing catch-up.
Defeat on his coaching debut (3-2 at Montego Bay United) was followed by another loss, this time at home to Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) leaders Harbour View, which leaves Sporting (25) six points adrift of a top six berth in ninth.
While it's a disappointing start to life in south west Clarendon, it is highly unlikely that Hyde will come under pressure after just two games in charge.
Fans are pretty much playing a wait-and-see game at the moment, while players are trying hard to impress the new coaching staff.
Club president Ainsley Lowe also seems willing to give Hyde enough time to put his stamp on the team. However, the honeymoon period will be over as soon as the third round of the RSPL begins.
"Both men really complement what we are trying to achieve at Sporting Central," Lowe told the Jamaica Observer recently. "Hyde is good with the players, while Straw is very good with the technical aspect.
"I like that they both come together to achieve a single goal and that they communicate with management," he added. "They have Jamaica's football at heart and are in fact interested in being a part of the Clarendon set-up."
The word was out from early November that Sporting are expected to do a fair bit of business in the January transfer window, but hardly anyone expected Hyde to be their most noteworthy signing, giving their deficiency in the centre-forward and goalkeeping departments.
With former national striker Paul Young initially earmarked as Nigel Stewart's long-term replacement, Hyde's appointment was the furthest thing from the fans' minds.
It was only when talks of hiring Young eventually cooled that Hyde became a candidate for the job, especially since Geoffrey Maxwell, one of the other names previously linked to the job, joined Humble Lion.
Hyde listed "experience, know how" and "discipline" as the main qualities he brings to the job, and other than his availability, those are some of the factors that convinced the club to sign him, Lowe said.
Very few top flight coaches, if any, possess a CV that can rival Hyde's. The former national player is the only man to have conditioned three different winning Premier League teams.
He guided Hazard United (now Portmore), Harbour View and Tivoli Gardens to league titles, but would later endure a topsy-turvy two-year spell at Effortville with Humble Lion.
Despite guiding the central Clarendon side to their best ever league placing (fourth) last season, Hyde and the faithful just didn't see eye-to-eye.
The supporters thought he wasn't the right fit for the team. "Him don't leave the community, so how we fi work wid a man who don't love we," a fan said. Conversely, Hyde and his assistant, Straw, were unhappy with the verbal abuse they often suffered and the reported "interference" from management in team selection, which eventually led to their resignation on December 4.
Hyde is unlikely to face any such challenge at Sporting, though.
At Brancourt, he will get the chance to do his job in relative comfort. He won't really have any overzealous fans to hurl abuse at him at training and on match days. There will be no community pressure to deal with, either, given Sporting's almost secluded location in the sleepy Clarendon Park neighbourhood.
The challenge that Hyde will, however, be faced with is most likely to be football related. At Sporting, he will be judged based on his knowledge of the game and ability to make the team better, which he thinks he's quite capable of doing.
Hyde is a known admirer of the style of football played by Sporting. In fact, in his early days at Humble Lion, he actually tried to sign Sporting trio JeVaughn Watson (now at Houston Dynamo), Levaughn Williams and Christopher Banner. He now has the opportunity to work with two of those players, plus others of similar quality in a squad of talented youngsters.
While at Humble Lion, Hyde would often bemoan the lack of creative players at his disposal, but with this particular Sporting team he won't have that kind of problem. Williams, Keith Kelly, Jamoly Powell, plus the young Corey Hylton are all capable of picking any defence on their day.
Hyde recently expressed surprised at Sporting's current league position, but might soon find that not having an old fashion centre to put away the chances they usually create in abundance is a part of the reason why.
Of course, that problem might soon be sorted with Sporting expected to bolster their squad before the transfer window closes. The impending addition of Garvey Maceo's promising National Under-17 forward, Boy's Town's Anthony Bennett and possibly a couple Humble Lion players will give the team a new look.
The signing of three English players, striker Ashley Marshado, goalkeeper Calvin King (who's at least 30 pounds overweight) and Formosa Mendes Gomes, is also a possibility.
But already, the talk on the ground is whether or not these players are good enough to ultimately make Sporting a better team.