Stewart: Team unity was key to success
THE strength in unity and conditioning developed during the latter stages of their preparation proved to be strong factors contributing to Jamaica's Digicel Caribbean Cup triumph (DCC).
This is the view of Bradley Stewart, assistant coach of the Reggae Boyz, who beat Guadeloupe 5-4 in a high-quality penalty shoot-out decider at the Stade Pierre Aliker in Martinique on Sunday. The teams had battled to a 1-1 full and extra-time finish.
"Primarily, I think the work that was done prior to the start of the tournament, meaning the practice matches and one-week camp where we emphasised conditioning, that intense few days of preparation, coming from that Costa Rica game, made a whole lot of difference," said Stewart.
"I thought that the relationship developed between the coaching staff and the players contributed in no uncertain way (to the win). The players recognised the responsibility they had to themselves and the nation ... there was total focus on remaining champions," Stewart noted. "I think those factors contributed significantly to the fact that we went there not only with physical preparedness, but with the mental side, psychological preparation."
Continuing, Stewart said: "Collectively, we feel elated. For the two coaches, coach Whitmore (Theodore) and coach Barrett (Warren), it was more significant for them because they were winning on two fronts, once as players and now as coaches."
Both Whitmore and Barrett were members of the Jamaican team that won the title in 1998.
Stewart, a veteran coach who had marshalled the Jamaica juvenile teams decades ago, has a "special feeling" after winning his first major crown.
"It's a special feeling, sometimes tempered by a view that it's something that could've happened a long time ago for me," he said. "Last year when Barnes (John) came back I thought I would've been with that programme.
"So it's a special feeling knowing that you're part of a coaching group, particularly that all the technical coaches are Jamaicans - born and bred and nurtured here," he added, noting his delight for head coach Theodore Whitmore, who has become the first person to have won the Caribbean title both as a player and head coach.
At the last championship, when Jamaica won in December 2008, Whitmore was the assistant coach to Barnes.
"I'm also particularly happy for Coach Whitmore because as a young coach, this is his first time around when he is totally in charge of the unit," expressed Stewart. "I think it's a testimony to the way in which he has developed and the speed at which he has developed as a coach. I think the speed at which he has developed is phenomenal."
He added: "When you look at his win-loss record, I think not as far as I am aware have we had this positive record as a coaching group - 17 wins, five losses and two draws. I don't think anybody can deny that this coaching grouping has done fantastically well."
Stewart also highlighted the work of their supporting cast - masseur Juan Pablo Camargo Jr, physiotherapist Andre Waugh, team physician Dr Carlton Fraser, and goalkeeper coach Barrett, praising them for their contribution to the team's success.
"There's a strong, strong camaraderie between us at this level, so we work together in sync and that support service around the team," Stewart added.
On the point of unity, he was asked to explain what effects an ultimatum issued by the players on the Jamaica Football Federation had on their triumph.
"Obviously, it would have had an effect," he said. "I thought that had that not happened we probably still would have done well and end up winning the tournament."
Furthermore, he commented: "When those challenges came up the team galvanised in a different way. They couldn't afford not to come out without the trophy.
"I don't think their intention was to embarrass the nation," he added. "What I'm reading from the situation is they thought they had made a reasonable request and thought they were on course to having their request satisfied. When it didn't happen, they chose another route. Even one of the strikers, Cummings, said it made them a stronger unit."
They went on to finish the tournament unbeaten, but found it more difficult to win after preliminary group play, with the semi-finals and finals going into extra time.
"Once you expose what it is you're about, like we did in the first three games, the coaches would have had an opportunity to know where our strengths are. We were not a surprise factor after that, the speed that we have, the style of play. We never had a one-on-one situation with Shelton (Luton) or Richards (Dane) after that, it was one against two, one against three."
- Audley Boyd