Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
When Harbour View met Boys' Town in the first-round final of the Digicel Premier League, most expected a tour de force by Jermaine Hue. After all, Hue had played like a maestro for Jamaica in World Cup qualifiers and is probably Jamaica's best outfield player of the year. The expectation didn't come to fruition and, if you listen to Boys' Town coach Andrew Price, there is cause for concern.
Speaking to The Gleaner after the game, Price said: "What played out was due diligence. We prepared properly for the game. We knew their key player was Jermaine Hue and we planned to shut him down, and we did that successfully."
"Once Hue was kept from playing his natural game, then the others would have difficulty functioning," added Price, the former Boys' Town defender.
just the beginning
Given his chance late by national coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, Hue has quickly taken control of Jamaica's midfield play. He makes himself available to receive the ball and confounds the opposition with fine passes and sometimes with incisive attempts on goal. Yet, against Boys' Town, he couldn't take control and the tide turned against Harbour View.
Domestically, it isn't a big deal. Despite the hoopla, the Boys' Town-Harbour View game was just a first-round final and the Premier League title is still a long way off. For all we know, Hue and the Stars of the East could dazzle the Red Brigade in subsequent matches. Price and the men in red will hope not.
If you're thinking of World Cup Qualifying in February, it's more worrying. If Boys' Town can shut Hue down, so might international teams. They'd have seen his impact in recent games and, like Boys' Town, they'll be planning for him.
Watch a replay of the recent English Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool and you'll see a second half where England captain Steven Gerrard gradually takes control of midfield. The 32-year-old stymies the classy Spaniard Juan Mata, helps in both defence and attack, and takes charge of the game.
At one point, he sprayed a slide rule pass on the right between two Chelsea men to release one of his attackers. When I saw that, I remembered Hue's pass to Dane Richards in the last Antigua-Barbuda match. It was inch perfect and nicely finished by Richards.
The standard of play and coaching will be higher in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, and Hue and Whitmore had better be ready. Those teams and their coaches will have their eye out for the 34-year-old Jamaican. Maybe they had scouts at the Boys' Town game ... or maybe they're watching the video right now.
Preparation is what world-level sport is all about. Everyone will do their due diligence. So should we.
I won't pretend to be in a position to give Josť Mourinho-like advice to Tappa, but some things are obvious. Jermaine Hue has to continue improving his fitness so he can be as mobile as possible. That will allow him to receive the ball often, with space and time enough to do something with his accurate passes.
People harp about his age, but who can forget 38-year-old Roger Milla dubbing the corner flag after brilliant goals in the 1990 World Cup for Cameroon. Germany's Lothar Matthaeus was brilliantly fit when he played the last of his five World Cups at 37. In the 2012 European Championships, Italian veteran Andrea Pirlo, who like Hue is 34, made the ball do the work and carried the Azzuris to the final. So Hue can do it.
Having said that, coach Tappa might like to consider Hue as a second-half substitute. With 35, 40 or 45 minutes to work, the Harbour View man could break deadlocks with his refreshing vision and pinpoint passing. With him supplying front men like Richards and Luton Shelton and maybe others to come, Jamaica can score against anyone.
The outlook is reasonably bright, but there is that little shadow of worry. If the coaches of the USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras and Panama watch the Boys' Town-Harbour View game, Jamaica and Jermaine Hue will have to be ready.
Hubert Lawrence has covered sport since 1987.