Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Oral Tracey | The Butler blueprint

Published:Monday | February 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Leon Bailey

Encouragingly, the focus and discourse permeating the local football fraternity in recent times have predominantly been about the development of our young players. It has been a long and rocky road, but Jamaicans have finally come to the realisation that the clearest path to sustainable relevance in the world game is through the nurturing and development of our young players.

The Red Stripe Premier League clubs, to their credit, have been seeing the light and heeding the call to give more young players more playing time in the nation's top league, which, under our imperfect circumstances, remains the most prudent and realistic way of expediting the development of these young players, in keeping with the best practices across the wider football world.

The equation is, however, far from complete. The development of our young players is but the first phase of the cycle; the next step is to get as many of our top youngsters into the best possible foreign leagues around the world. The local Premier League will not realistically become a viable top-quality football league anytime soon. Even the notion of a franchise system with, and wholesale private-sector ownership of, the local clubs will not yield a competitive product relative to the big money leagues of Europe, or even the lesser leagues of South and Central America.

 

LOFTY AMBITIONS

 

Therefore, in keeping with our lofty ambitions of becoming consistently competitive in international football, the immediate objective will remain getting our top young players into the world's top football leagues. The United Soccer League and even Major League Soccer, both in the United States, just will not cut it.

It is impossible to have a current and credible discussion about young players in Jamaica without referring to the ongoing journey of Leon Bailey. While Bailey himself has been busy focusing on creating waves in the German Bundesliga, the man who orchestrated that journey continues to tell the story we all know by now, and the story we should never forget.

Craig Butler is the man most perfectly placed to help in the completion of the developmental cycle of Jamaica's young players. The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) cannot afford to have the expertise and experience of Craig Butler go to waste. Butler has, through his hard and smart work, and his dedication to the cause, put himself in a position where he can to open the doors of opportunities in Europe for our young Jamaican players.

The success of Leon Bailey will not just serve to inspire the next generation of Jamaican players, but Bailey's unique and exquisite talent, added to his model professionalism and focus, which have seen him blossoming into one of the world's top young players, will also open the eyes of big clubs across Europe to the realistic possibility of more players of the ilk of Bailey coming out of Jamaica. We must capitalise on this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Butler is doing his best with the Phoenix Academy pool of players, but the Jamaican pool is much wider. If somehow, Butler with all his contacts and familiarity with the nuances of getting football deals done, his expertise could be applied to the national good, it would be promising, to say the least, for Jamaican players and, ultimately, Jamaica's football.

Craig Butler drives a hard bargain and is obviously no easy nut to crack, especially with all that murky water flowing under the bridge between himself and local football officialdom, but it would be an absolute travesty if Jamaica's football misses this opportunity. If some kind of collaborative effort between Butler and the federation fails to materialise, the technical leadership of the JFF needs to set their egos aside and show appreciation and understanding of the value to the pioneering work done by Butler in this pivotal and specialised area.

Nurturing and development aside, the young talent will need an outlet and a gateway to the professional world, failing which the entire process will inevitably capsize. Butler has already created a blueprint for that outlet. It is now incumbent on the JFF leadership to either get a hold of that blueprint and use it, or get the author of that blueprint to use it on Jamaica's behalf.