Schoolboy football flashback | Precious 1991 Ardenne double
Scroll down the list of winners of the Manning Cup and the Olivier Shield and it may surprise you to find Ardenne High School among them. Yet, the history of the 1991 Ardenne team shows that its dominance 27 years ago was built over several seasons. In 1990, Ardenne reached the Walker Cup final, only to lose to Excelsior High. That breakthrough had been fashioned by a group of players who had been together for years under Ardenne coach Lionel Solomon in age-group club football.
Though two senior players had graduated, "1991", recalls goalkeeper Raul Reid, "the core of that team that was left included me, Raymond James, Lloyd Terrelonge, Gregory McLean, and Garfield Turner. Very importantly, we decided not to leave the school , seeing that we went to a final and also not to leave the school without definitely putting our names up there because we knew the passion of our then principal, Mr Roy Ebanks."
Reid continued, "His dream to retire was just to win the Manning Cup and get Ardenne on one shift because we were a two-shift school, so because of the dedication and the sacrifice that Mr Ebanks made for us players, we decided we have to tell him thanks by leaving the school with a trophy."
Resolved to play more team football following the departure of senior players Andrew Hall and Calvin Murray, Reid explained, "I think that was the focus, and the next thing that we didn't do was leave God out of anything that we did."
New coach Hugh McCarthy taught Ardenne the value of set pieces.
"All he did with the team differently, from what Solomon did, was introduce us to set plays and how to play with them and against them because St George's were already killing us with set plays."
Focus paid off
The new focus paid off. In one memorable game, a win over Dunoon Technical, Reid said: "Both defenders, Gregory McLean and Omar Johnson, scored from set plays. First a free kick and a set play with a cross and a wing back coming up, something we worked on in training all the time."
Led by ace defender and captain Lloyd Terrelonge, Ardenne edged St George's College 2-1 despite the efforts of future Reggae Boy Andy 'Bomber' Williams. That paved the way for a tumultuous final against Excelsior. The match came down to penalties.
"I kept telling my team when extra time started, 'Get it to penalties and you have nothing to worry about' because then I knew I would have to take it into my hands, and that was the game for me," the champion keeper restated.
Reid saved Ardenne twice in the shoot-out, including a save from his friend, the late Claudius Massop Jr. That save was sweeter as Reid recalls Massop promising, 'Yes, babes, I'm going to score two goals for you' on a radio call-in programme.
When the battle was over, we said: "Thank you, Lord, because we knew what it meant to the school, to Mr Ebanks, to the team, for all the adversities that we went through and knew what it would have meant to Ardenne."
He still regrets the lapse in concentration that led to a costly goal-keeping mistake in the Walker Cup against St George's but says with the Manning Cup secure, the Olivier Shield win over Clarendon College was just a bonus. Missed first-leg penalties sent Ardenne to Woodside needing a result, and the team from Ardenne Road emerged 2-1 winners, with Oneil Riley outstanding.
"We said, alright, we're going there to take it, and that was the mentality going down to Clarendon", was Reid's recollection 27 years after the game.
Part of the 1991 success came from sports psychology and individual sessions with the school's guidance counsellors.
"We never knew how important that was until after we saw the benefit of how it bonded us and got a team of 26, 30 individuals to blend and focus on one goal," he said, giving credit to headmaster Ebanks and team manager Glen Archer, the Spelling Bee guru, for insisting on this measure.