CLARENDON, Jamaica — Football, universally accepted, is an unpredictable sport, yet the most high-profile move of the schoolboy football off-season still managed to baffle many.
Patrick 'Jackie" Walters returning to Clarendon College, more than 10 years after leaving the Chapelton-based school for parish rivals Glenmuir High, was unexpected, even with rumours circulating from as far back as 2010 that the veteran coach was wanted in north-central Clarendon.
What made the move a surprise was the fact that Walters had just won the daCosta Cup, his third with Glenmuir, and sixth overall, when very few expected it. In addition, Walters had revealed that shortly after beating STETHS to lift the trophy in Montego Bay he turned down numerous advances from other schools, as he looked to wind down his career at Glenmuir.
"If you notice," he told the Jamaica Observer Central at the time, "I have won three D'Cups at every school that I have gone to, so I would love to break that jinx at Glenmuir. We have been working with this current
crop of youngsters for a while now, and they have been showing a lot of promise, not only in football, but also in academics.
"Also, there are a couple of youngsters in the school who see me as their father. Whatever problems they have, I am the one they come to, so for at least the next two years - which will probably be time for me to retire from football - I will be here."
But little did we know that one of the phone calls Walters received was from his former employers. And as it turned out, the details of that conversation, among other things, were good enough to persuade him to hand in his resignation at Glenmuir, with the view of defending the D'Cup title at CC.
While it's still not entirely clear why Walters has gone back to CC, his re-appointment has been met with mixed reactions here in central Jamaica.
At face value, the move appears to be a "quick fix" to CC's trophy drought, which has dragged on since 1998 when, incidentally, Walters led them to the Triple Crown.
The power brokers of the past students' association, which is largely responsible for the D'Cup team, believe that this year they have a team with championship potential. That team, however, lacked a proven 'Commander-in-Chief'. But in Walters, who has over 30 years' experience at the very top level of youth football, the feeling is that they are now genuine title contenders.
That feeling has also trickled down to the residents of the Chapelton community, where Walters is like a demi-god. They are simply ecstatic that their hero has come "home" to spearhead the hunt for a seventh daCosta Cup title.
Amid this celebration, there is a school of thought that, while in no way doubts Walters' ability to bring immediate success to CC, is questioning whether the re-appointment will benefit the school in the long term. This argument is based on age. And there is some merit, considering Walters, who will turn 65 in October, has also hinted that he could retire from active coaching very soon.
But, things and times have changed, and for now Walters will be looking to break the aforementioned jinx, not at Glenmuir, but at CC.
And if the pre-season predictions are anything to go by, then CC are expected to be right up there challenging for major honours this season. Don't expect Walters to admit that publicly, however. In his own words, "you can never put your pot on fire with schoolboy football. Yu just have to prepare the youngsters to the best of your ability and hope for the best".
That preparation will move up a notch today when CC open their season at home to Zone H minnows Thompson Town. It's a game that, traditionally, has gone to CC, even in their driest spell. No less is, therefore, expected this time around. But, should the season go as planned for CC, this fixture will turn out to be nothing but a sideshow in Jackie Walters' grand homecoming.