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Orville Higgins: Save stupid, but talented Alvas Powell

Published:Friday | July 17, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Jamaica's Alvas Powell in his Portland Timbers club kit.

The news caught most of us by surprise. Alvas Powell, we are told, has walked out of the Gold Cup squad because he was not satisfied with his playing time.

Alvas was not used at all in the first two games against Costa Rica and Canada and was only used as a second-half substitute in the final game against El Salvador. Alvas first came to prominence under coach Theodore Whitmore, playing at right back, a position that, incidentally, has been a problem for Jamaica in modern times.

With the refusal of Whitmore to play Xavian Virgo, who was Jamaica's best overlapping right back, in that position, there has been a lot of trial and error. In that time, we have used Lovell Palmer, Daniel Gordon, and Lloyd Doyley. We have even tried Jermaine Taylor.

Alvas Powell was thrown in that position almost out of desperation. He was young, robust and read the game well. He did fairly well and must have thought he had sewn up that position for good.

Coming into this Gold Cup competition, he has had to watch from the sidelines as Adrian Mariappa has done the job in the right-wing back position. Mariappa did the job in the Copa America, where Alvas was absent, because of club obligations. Mariappa has done well there, and the coaching staff has decided that he has earned the right to be first choice for that spot. Alvas felt hard done by that decision.

Mariappa can also play central defence, and maybe Alvas feels that the coaching staff could have kept Mariappa inside and allowed him to continue at wing back.

Michael Hector has been brought into the fold as a centre half, and that makes spots for the central defensive positions even harder, with Wes Morgan and Jermaine Taylor also seen as being ahead of him. When the side has had to be juggled, we even saw Rodolph Austin going into that central defensive role.

Immature behaviour

Alvas, therefore, has been gradually seeing himself playing less of a prominent role. Despite advice and even cajoling from teammates and coaches about staying on, he could no longer accept that. I cannot, on the surface, accept this. Walking out on a team because you haven't been given enough playing time is very immature. Whatever happens, Alvas should be punished for his actions.

Unlike some others, though, who have suggested that what the youngster has done is unpardonable, I'm not prepared to write him off completely. It might sound odd, but what Alvas has done has made my admiration for him grow in terms of his obvious passion for the game. I like sportsmen who have a drive, an intensity for their craft. It is the reason I prefer Maradona over Messi, Jordan over James.

What Alvas has demonstrated here is his passion to play. Given the choice of a player walking out because he is not playing and one who isn't interested in playing, I'll take the one who has committed Alvas' sin.

I happen to like Alvas' attitude as far as wanting to play is concerned. At 20 years old, that kind of drive is admirable. Has he gone about it the wrong way? Yes. He has probably jeopardised his chances of being signed by other teams who may not like the young man's attitude, but astute coaches will look beyond his impetuosity and see a talented youngster who believes in himself and believes he ought not to be on the bench. There is a lot about that attitude that I like.

He went about it the wrong way, but how many of us didn't do stupid things at 20 years old? I disagree with the coach that he won't play him again. I repeat, I prefer to have a player who is upset at the fact that he is not playing as opposed to one who doesn't want to play when called upon.

Alvas now needs an arm around his shoulder, not a whip against his back. He needs to be told that what he has done is unacceptable but completely forgivable. Like the Prodigal Son, he needs to be brought back into the fold and told that he is still a valuable member of the side.

Coach Winfried Schäfer, not surprisingly, is not amused. He has even hinted that Powell will never again be considered again while he's at the helm.

Captain Horace Burrell, head of the Jamaica Football Federation, should step in now to save the career of a youngster, instead of contributing to his self-inflicted isolation.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.