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We tried!

Duckie says he and assistant Gordon did their best to improve fitness of Boyz

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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DONOVAN Duckie, head coach of the Reggae Boyz Under-23 team during recent tournament flops, said both he and his assistant did their part to try to get the team in prime physical shape but ultimately, he said, the requisite expertise was too big a task.

“Merron Gordon and I tried to share the responsibility of the physical work, but physical training is a specialist area,” Duckie, 44, told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday.

He lamented that the “gas in the car has to be the physical training to carry out the tactical instructions” given by coaches.

The team, regarded as one of the most talented Under-23 groups in recent times, was humiliatingly eliminated from the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers on home soil last month. They drew 1-1 against both Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis, leaving the latter team to progress as the group winner.

The Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, kicked off days later with Jamaica finishing sixth after one victory and three losses in four outings. They conceded a combined nine goals while scoring three times.

In the wake of the Olympics qualifying failure Duckie had accepted blame, but during the Pan Am Games, he publicly placed some degree of culpability at the feet of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), saying the players were unfit because the team had not been assigned a physical trainer during pre-tournament preparation.

Those comments shocked many since the Jamaica Olympic Association had inked a multimillion-dollar arrangement with the JFF to aid the team's qualification to the 2020 showpiece.

There has also been talk of internal ramblings over remuneration which arguably shadowed the Under-23 team during both competitions. When asked about that issue Duckie, who has since handed in his resignation as the Under-23 head coach, neither confirmed nor denied.

But even then questions have arisen regarding his timing in levelling criticism at his bosses when he had the team in preparation for two-thirds of a year.

He said efforts at “diplomacy” and the belief that his request for a trainer would have been met were the main reasons he remained tight-lipped for so long.

“In the past, I've always been accused of walking away from jobs — that's public knowledge. They always say when things are going bad, Duckie quits. That was something that followed me for years,” he told the Observer.

“I told myself that I would change that [because] I've always been accused of lacking diplomacy and been accused of being antagonistic in a lot of cases. When I got the job at the JFF I was sworn to [confidentiality]. The general secretary [Dalton Wint] had asked me and other coaches not to wash our dirty linen in the public, to deal with things in-house, and that's what I did,” said Duckie.

He added: “I kept silent because I was promised week after week that the issues would be resolved — involving the trainer especially.

“Immediately after we failed to progress I took full responsibility, but after listening to the utterances of many of the people involved in the [JFF] organisation I decided they (the Jamaican people) need to hear my side.”

Duckie, well regarded locally, stated that he remains open to the prospect of coaching at the national level in the future.

“My ambition is always to serve my country. If it comes back to that it's something you have to always give consideration to. But at this time it's not a consideration for me,” he said.

Duckie currently heads the coaching unit at local outfit Mount Pleasant Football Academy.

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