Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Wolmer's 1971 - The team that didn't know how to lose

Published:Saturday | November 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence
1971 TRIPLE CHAMPIONS WOLMER'S: In front from left are: Hugh Fisher, Fitzroy Robinson, Carl Smith, Vermont Samuda, Keith Tulloch (captain), Karl Largie, Dervin Garvey and Paul Pringle. Back row (from left) Frank Lawrence, Jeffrey Mordecai, Richard Davey, Warren McLean, Roderick O'Savio, Harold Smith and Derrick Plummer.

As the 1960s drew to a close, Vere Technical High became the ruling power in schoolboy football. During that period, Vere victories in the daCosta Cup and the Olivier Shield came and went like clockwork. This trend was interrupted in 1971 by a super Wolmer's Boys team, coached by a Welsh man by the name of Ron Jones.

With Jones guiding the team, Wolmer's destroyed almost every team it faced in 1971. With a prolific front line of Karl Largie; Vermont Samuda; Richard Davey, who scored the winner for the Jamaica senior team against Haiti in that same season; and Paul Pringle rampant, captain Keith Tulloch resolute in midfield with his partner Fitzroy Robinson, the team was a fine attacking force. Tulloch was outstanding.

"Playing 4-2-4, without a magnificent midfielder, that formation just does not work," reflected the team's defensive leader Jeff Mordecai in Kingston on November 1.

"We at the back had the advantage of having great attackers in front of us," he recalled, "and attack is the best form of defence."

With Boys' Championships winning hurdler Harold Smith in goal, and free-kick specialist Frankie Lawrence, Mordecai, Warren McLean and Bunny Plummer guarding the path to the frame, Wolmer's had all the answers. In the Manning Cup, Trench Town, with Devon Lewis, and defending champions Kingston College, with Derek Denniser, were strong. Trench Town were overtaken 2-1, and in the Manning Cup decider, KC were resolute. Both schools were level on 22 points, and an initial meeting ended 1-1, with Denniser scoring a late penalty.

 

TOP GEAR

 

The replay saw Wolmer's in top gear with Mordecai safe in defence, Samuda scoring twice, and Largie closing the scoring 3-0.

The Olivier Shield face-off with Vere at Hayes, Clarendon, was dramatic.

"The intensity of that match in terms of who Vere were and who Vere's team was in that area and who Hugh Shearer was, the prime minister arriving in a helicopter, was my first introduction to something fundamental," he reminisced, "something you know is important."

The score, 0-0, was encourage-ment for the Wolmer's team.

"We were of the view that after a nil-nil draw that everything was looking good because we could hold them," Mordecai said with conviction.

He was right. Though fans warned Wolmer's "Yuh a go get six-love! Yuh a go get six-love!" as the teams filed on to the the National Stadium pitch for the second leg, Wolmer's prevailed. Down 2-0 at half time, the champions were inspired by Jones at half time. A Lawrence free kick burst through the grip of the goalkeeper to start the fight back, before pressure led to a Vere own goal. In the dying moments, Pringle scored the winner.

Not long after, Wolmer's completed the triple by beating KC 3-0 to win the Walker Cup with Pringle scoring twice.

Mordecai says practice games against Cavalier gave him and his teammates an edge.

"There was a hardness about the Wolmer's side that they didn't know how to lose," he noted with his mind on come-from-behind wins over Trench Town, St Jago High School, and Vere.

Other than its skills, the 1971 success banked heavily on trust.

"The one thing I learnt," Mordecai reflected, "is the effect trust can have - trust in the sense that everybody didn't have to look over their shoulder or look behind them to trust the person beside them."

A tough loss to Trench Town in 1970 had taught them a lesson. "A year later, we had learnt, we had grown" was his observation. "We had developed a trust," he finalised. "We had the habit of not losing."