TOLL GATE, Clarendon — When Nigel Stewart took charge of his first official game as head coach of Sporting Central Academy yesterday, the occasion was expected to prompt considerable nostalgia.
He has been there many times before — serving in an interim position — but this time it will be a different ball game as he faces the challenges of a permanent appointment.
With a new management team in place at Brancourt, Stewart will be expected to produce big results in this season's Red Stripe Premier League — something that he was never really required to do in his first three spells as caretaker/coach.
"As a coach, you are always expected to get (big) results, even if you are winning, but I'm not really concerned about that," Stewart told the Jamaica Observer recently.
"Chris Dawes and Kevin Williams set a good foundation at the club and I'm just here to steer these guys and hope for the best."
He added: "I have been coaching these guys from they were in the Under-21 team and I have had some great times with them, so it's an honour for me to be coaching them at the (senior) level now."
Stewart, one of 11 Jamaican coaches who recently took part in an advanced coaching course in Brazil, may not be the fan favourite, but based on his track record, not many can argue against his appointment.
The former Edwin Allen daCosta Cup player guided Sporting to their first national trophies (the JFF/PLCA Under-21 League and mid-season titles) two seasons ago.
Last season, when Sporting slipped with six points of the relegation places, he also did a creditable job in guiding the south west Clarendon side to safety (with four games to spare) after replacing mentor Vassell Reynolds as temporary coach in February.
Sporting's captain Marlon Allen was among those calling for Stewart's permanent appointment at the end of the season.
He said: "I really think they should give him a chance to coach the team full-time. He knows the players inside out and he has been with club (since) we have been in the Premier League."
If nothing else, Stewart's fledging career is almost certain to come under scrutiny in the coming weeks. And how he deals with the pressure might just determine how successful he is at Sporting.
Reynolds, Stewart's high school coach, reckons the young coach has the necessary support to succeed at Brancourt.
"It's really a win-win situation for both him and the club," Reynolds said. "The players see him as that die-hearted Sporting man who will always stick with them no matter what, so they will play for him.
"He would have also learnt a lot because has been there through all the ups and down and has worked with all of the coaches who have passed through, which means he will have a lot of people to call on for advice."