Top candidate
Former national ‘keeper Nicole McClure backs Donaldson as Girlz head coach
In this file photo, Australia’s forward Samantha Kerr (left) vies for the ball with Jamaica’s forward Khadija Shaw (second left) and Jamaica’s goalkeeper Nicole McClure (right) during the France 2019 Women’s World Cup Group C football match at Alpes Stadium Grenoble, central-eastern France on June 18, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Former national goalkeeper Nicole McClure believes Lorne Donaldson would be the ideal successor to Vinimore “Vin” Blaine as head coach of the senior Reggae Girlz football team.

Donaldson, who along with Andrew Price were assistants to Head Coach Hue Menzies when Jamaica qualified for the Fifa 2019 Women’s World Cup, is widely regarded as the front-runner ahead of the Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF’s) promised announcement of Blaine’s replacement this week.

“Lorne is an experienced coach, so I think having him as a top candidate would be in the team’s and also the country’s best interest,” McClure told the Jamaica Observer from her base in New York where she coaches at the grassroots level.

“The team has a tough road ahead and taking that into consideration, the players deserve to have a strong leader to guide them,” she added.

Blaine, who had previously been in charge of the Girlz, was appointed interim head coach in December after his predecessor Hubert Busby was suspended in the midst allegations of sexual misconduct in a separate coaching role.

MCCLURE... Lorne is an experienced coach, so I think having him as a top candidate would be in the team’s and also the country’s best interest

Blaine guided the Girlz through the first phase of qualifiers, during which time they won all four games. But mere weeks ahead of the final stage of 2023 World Cup qualifying in Mexico in July, he vacated the position because of a fall-out with players.

Leading to his exit, 20 members of the Reggae Girlz team signed a two-page letter which stunningly called for his removal, claiming weaknesses in communication and unprofessional leadership.

The JFF had publicly backed the head coach and his staff, pointing to insufficient evidence to support the concerns expressed by players in their letter.

But Blaine, who had refuted the Girlz’s accusations, walked away from the job anyhow, a move which was widely expected, particularly because of the scars left by the players’ emphatic vote of no-confidence.

“It’s unfortunate to hear about the current coaching situation and I can only hope that things get sorted out before the upcoming matches,” said McClure, who was instrumental in Jamaica’s historic World Cup qualifying feat.

DONALDSON... was one of former Head Coach Hugh Menzies’ assistants when Jamaica qualified for the Fifa 2019 Women’s World Cup

After she was brought on as a substitute in the third-place play-off against Panama at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship, the former expert shot blocker heroically kept out two of the four penalties she faced to help Jamaica to a 4-2 shoot-out win.

Should Donaldson take the reins, McClure is optimistic the Girlz — much like they did in 2018 — can overcome the off-field distraction and defy the odds to book a spot for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.

“I think the squad has a decent chance to qualify as long as the players stay focused on the task at hand.

“Once they remain focused, then outside factors which, in this case, is the coaching crisis, should not deter them from accomplishing their goal of qualifying. They have a great opportunity to advance out of this very strong group, but it will all come down to execution on game days,” she told the Observer.

The 51st-ranked senior Reggae Girlz are drawn in Group A alongside world champions United States, hosts Mexico, and Caribbean neighbours Haiti for the July 4-18 Concacaf Women’s Championship in Monterrey.

BY SHERDON COWAN Observer staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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