To be mentioned in the same breath as Jermaine Hue is no small thing in Jamaica’s football folklore.
So when Harbour View FC Head Coach Ludlow Bernard likened 20-year-old Cristojaye Daley to the former Reggae Boyz midfielder, it raised eyebrows.
And Bernard would be well-placed to make such a comparison since Hue’s finest footballing days were spent at Harbour View.
“He [Daley] reminds me of Jermaine Hue, with his low centre of gravity and his ability to move in and out [away from] defenders,” the coach said after Daley scored the second-half winner in Harbour View’s 1-0 victory over Humble Lion FC in the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) match at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex on Monday.
Hue, who heavily favoured his left foot, was the opposite of a defensive work horse and never quite hit the highs with the national team, mostly being overlooked when he was in his prime. But at his best, his vision, range of passing, and nifty manoeuvres in tight spaces were extraordinary.
Once more one of Daley’s sublime talent emerges from his muted shell and provided he receives a solid foundation, Bernard is confident Jamaican football supporters can look forward to a delightful treat from the former national Under-17 player.
“I just want him to express himself a bit more because I think he’s an immense talent, an underrated talent. I think he has been provided with a platform to really showcase himself to Jamaica, and hopefully, it can set him up for better opportunities going forward.
“He clearly has the attributes to be a genuine playmaker for any team. He’s pretty quick, he’s very deceptive and the fact that I can play him sometimes in wide positions speaks to his versatility,” the Harbour View coach told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before he puts in all together. I anticipate great things for the young man, it’s just that we, as coaches and his handlers, have to provide him with the facilities for him to succeed. It’s all about preparing the players… and I think the sky is the limit for him,” Bernard said regarding the predominantly left-footed player.
Daley, a Daniel Town, Trelawny native who played schoolboy football at William Knibb Memorial High, spent last year on loan at FC Koper in Slovenia.
Though he had the distinction of scoring twice in a Slovenian Cup game for the club, a permanent contract did not come.
“It was a good feeling [to score] but deep down I knew I needed to do much more,” he said.
Back in Jamaica, he is mostly focused on the silver lining from that setback.
“I just want to help Harbour View to retain the JPL title, and for myself, I just want to be a better player, to have that kind of [professional] mindset. I’m now a stronger person mentally and physically,” said the former Holland United player.
“It [being in Slovenia] was a really good experience for my development. The weather was the biggest problem for me. Yes, I was disappointed [at not attaining a long-term deal] but I learnt a lot from the experience. And going forward I’m looking to do much better at the next chance,” Daley explained.
Football Coach Dewight Jeremiah, who steered Daley’s progress at Holland United and at William Knibb, said he was gifted from a tender age.
“He came to me from he was about 10 or 11 years old, and he was an instant hit.
Some coaches used him differently and some coaches coach out people’s natural abilities. ‘Cristo’ is such a talent that at 10 I had him playing in my Under-17 team at Holland, and from early I realised he had a footballing brain between his ears.
“He’s the type of player that as a coach you don’t give a lot of instructions to when he’s going out there. He’s the type of player that solves his problems on his own, so you just have to teach him how to use his talent for the betterment of the team,” Jeremiah told the Observer.
“He’s best playing behind the striker with a free role, I think that’s his best position. A player like that you don’t limit him because he has an explosiveness about him, a good change of pace. He has that eye for a pass but he also wants to score,” Jeremiah explained.
— Sanjay Myers