JC emphasis on Manning Cup
Looking back at last year's schoolboy football season, Jamaica College (JC) re-emphasised its imprint on the competition by taking three successive Manning Cup titles. This is a distinction only once achieved in history.
This columnist declares interest in that the previous occasion was the 1961, 1962, 1963 trot, started in his final year of a school which churned out three of the nation's heads of state.
Going into the final against perennial arch-rivals St George's College was a challenge on mammoth proportions. The Jesuit school had rolled over the team from Old Hope Road in the Super Cup final, four goals to nil. In certain quarters, it was seen as humiliating.
Take it as you choose, it was a tutorial in basic execution of brilliance, put on by coach Neville 'Bertis' Bell-inspired boys in the lighter shade of blue.
Coach Miguel Coley, in charge of the JC unit, had been distracted by national duties. However, there were going to be no excuses accepted in-house for that temporary break in his substantive role. The Catholics had to be turned back if a tradition of triumph was to be sustained.
In an address to Old Boys' recently, chief architect in the JC sporting structure and corporate giant, Ian Forbes, summed it up. Himself an old boy, he called the eventual, trophy-deciding one-nil performance as a message to the country.
"Whether in the classrooms, on the playing fields or in the corporate boardrooms, private or public sector, we must take the fight to our opposing rivals and not let them roll over or conquer us, no matter how frightening the task may be."
Call it late, as the track and field season has started and thoughts are on this Olympic Year. But it was inevitable that Foster's Fairplay would, at some time, look back at that 4-0, crafted to put the boys from Hope in their place. As to how the comeback to take the Manning Cup, was orchestrated and executed, occupies this column, this week.
Enter the passion, belief and commitment of coach Coley. Here was a man steeped in a sporting culture that saw him, at the youthful age of 17, playing basketball, cricket, volleyball, football and doing long jump at Intercol, while attending Mico Teachers College. In 2004, he was named Athlete of the Year. On the soccer field, he "had dreams of one day playing for Manchester United".
Armed with a degree in sports education and a diploma in English and physical education, he had understudied coaching exemplars in Barry Watson (Mile Gully High) and Alrick Clarke (Norman Manley High, where he coupled with teaching duties). Coley referred to Clarke in glowing terms.
"I believe coach Clarke was (my) early mentor as he took me to assist him everywhere he coached."
It was in this period that the JC call had come. Given the resultant impact as he became absorbed in the Old Hope Road programme, it would be simple to merely say, 'and the rest is history'.
However, story of the 2015 'rise from the ashes', 1-0, to turn back the St George's College march, to greater glory, must be told.
Coley reminisced. "The four-nil was a catastrophe. It was a tough night. I hadn't slept based on what took place between Jamaica and Panama (a Reggae Boyz loss). I knew it would be a difficult game, but we were too open and we played right in the hands of a philosophy of outscoring your opponent, as the entire statistic favoured JC except the goal column."
He underwent a period of introspection. He described it as a time to "soul search, dig deep and become stronger as a man". His confidence never waned.
"I was happy that I had time to work with my players before the next game, and I knew things would be way different. But congrats to St George's, they did what they had to do."
In order to "move from a four-nil", he took full responsibility. So, "it's not you, it's me", that was what was important.
"What was good was that my management staff and school administration had so much belief in my ability to turn things around, and their support intensified. This was the moment for me to see champions brush themselves up and rise with pride."
Therein lay the passion that brought the turnaround. Coley ended the discourse on a special note.
"We are one ... Fervet family. Teamwork makes the dream work."