Waterhouse Coach Gayle says club focusing on youth

Waterhouse Coach Gayle says club focusing on youth

Observer writer

Friday, January 15, 2021

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Like other teams preparing to participate in the Jamaica Premier League, Waterhouse FC put a halt to the programme at the end of 2020 when it became clear that there was no set date for the resumption of football on the island.

In fact, the only team that reportedly had the players doing any form of physical activities throughout that period, was Mount Pleasant FA, who has the financial muscle that the other 11 clubs in the league don't possess.

However, with Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) continuing to attract new sponsors, most people are hopeful that football will resume some time early this year. This has resulted in most, if not all, of the teams returning to training, including 2019 Premier League runners-up, Waterhouse FC.

Head Coach Marcel Gayle, who spoke recently on local television, confirmed that his club was back in training after a break at the end of 2020.

“We started training last week. We broke training [last year] based on the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the JFF [Jamaica Football Federation]. The league should have started back in November [but] due to the pandemic it had to be pushed back and financial constraints. Because nothing [money] is coming in, it's a little bit hard on the club, so we decided to give them December off,” he said.

Gayle admitted that things have been difficult for his players who had been gearing up for a return of football last year.

“It's difficult, I won't say everything was fine and dandy. It's difficult and this is their livelihood and they depend on this,” he noted.

The Waterhouse native says that with the changes brought on by the delay due to the pandemic, his organisation has shifted their medium-term focus and outlook from trying to win the league to building for the future, citing the number of players that they have brought through from their youth ranks to senior football.

“We have a good cadre of players. I think the future is bright at the club at the present moment. We are trying to invest in our own youth players and we have quite a number of them. Even now in the Premier League squad we have Akeem Chambers, Ricardo Thomas, Andre Fletcher, Andre Leslie and Kimani Campbell. Those players came right through our youth programme, from Under-13.

“Based on how we positioned last year, naturally, we might be considered one of the favourites but for us we just want to have a sustainable programme going forward, in terms of youth versus the seniors.

“We have senior players encouraging the youth, letting them know that football is going to be played and keep them abreast of what is happening for now.

“The club has a vision. At first, we wanted to win, our main objective was to win but, based on the pandemic and based on the format that the JFF is now putting in place, you won't get demoted for the next two to three years,” he noted.

Gayle explained that there has not been the usual rush to add experienced players to the squad at the end of the season in an effort to win the league.

“The plan is to start from scratch, so any influx of players would be youth players. We have more time now to adjust and plan going forward. Our average age group now is about 24 and we want to get it down to about 22. If we can get it down to 22, we are on our way to where we want to go,” he explained.

It is quite likely that should football return it will do so without the benefit of fans in the stands, but Gayle was philosophical in his understanding of the situation.

“We have to make the adjustment. We know that the crowd is the 12th man in the stands and it's not so nice for the opponents but it's the new norm. Internationally, we see it on the television, there are no spectators in the stands, so we just have to make the adjustments,” he said.

Gayle promised that even with a shift in focus to youth, Waterhouse would not lose their identity on the field of play.

“We are an aggressive team in terms of going forward, creating goalscoring opportunities. For the last two to three years, Waterhouse probably had the leading goalscorers in the squad, so we want to still play that type of football. In terms of moving the ball around, passing the ball, we want to be the most attractive team in the league,” he reasoned.

Gayle says the impact of the lack of football extends beyond the players and the other people at the club.

“I have been going around the community saying the same thing because whenever somebody stops me the question is the same. When is football going to come back? When are we going to start playing? The community is very upbeat, they really look forward to Premier League football. It took the beat out of the community, people really looked forward to it, down to the peanut man,” he stated.

While understanding the challenges faced by authorities to give the green light for the resumption of sports, Gayle made a special appeal for a return, sometime soon.

“For the ministry I know it must be difficult, [there are] a whole lot of questions but…we as coaches and managers, we want to play only football and if we want them to only play football, their livelihood will be affected. It's difficult to get them to focus. It's not just verbal, it's mentally, physically, spiritually, you want to be there with them and sometime you want to give them that hope. The ministry, I know that your hands are tied, but we need sports,” he said.

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