By Orville Higgins
For weeks now, the average Jamaican football fan had sensed that there might be some differences between the talented Darren Mattocks and the Reggae Boyz coaching staff.
The youngster was growing on the Jamaican football public. We remembered him from his big scoring days at Bridgeport. We followed his career at the University of Akron. He excelled not only on the football field, but he was performing academically as well, and we watched with pride as he became the most-talked-about youngster in the United States Major League (MLS). He was named Rookie of the Year in the MLS, and it seemed only a matter of time before he became a star on the Boyz.
We saw him in that historic home game against the United States. He played a few minutes and impressed all and sundry with his touch, his confidence, and his off-the-ball movements. Yet when the team went to the USA, he was strangely left on the bench. His performance in the Caribbean Cup was low-key, and then when the squad was called for the Mexican game in this final round, he was surprisingly left out.
There were mutterings that he was not playing first-team football, hence his omission, and that his inexperience was working against him, but most of us knew there had to be more to it than that.
WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING
Well, story come to bump! Without getting into too many details, Captain Burrell has admitted publicly that the federation has problems with the attitude of the precocious youngster. He said it on a radio programme in New York a couple of Sundays ago, and it was also in the newspapers yesterday. Naturally, my interest was piqued, and Wednesday night I called my sources in the federation and tried to unravel the mystery about Mattocks' 'attitude'.
The answers were interesting. Based on what I heard, it appeared obvious that some members of the Jamaican football hierarchy were not happy with Mattocks' behaviour after that home game against the USA. He was seen apparently encouraging spectators to run on the field after the end of the game, after that emotional win, and that is a no-no at the FIFA level.
We had heard whispers of that before, but I was hearing for the first time from officials at the JFF itself, that this was definitely a mark against him.
He might have been forgiven for that, but then there were those at the JFF executive level who were less than impressed with the youngster's 'attitude' when called for the last Caribbean Cup. Based on what I was told, the youngster was missing for days and couldn't be contacted by the JFF when a camp was called prior to the tournament.
It turned out that Mattocks may well have had a prearranged photo shoot with adidas in the United States, round about the time when the camp was called, but he clearly didn't communicate this well to the JFF and the coaching staff.
BELOW PAR AND UNFIT
In Antigua, he played well below par and was reportedly unfit and far more sluggish than he should have been. I've also been told that he wasn't always the most receptive person to instructions given and definitely rubbed some people the wrong way. In short, there are those who feel that Mattocks has started to believe in his own hype.
It may not be true, of course, but perception sometimes is everything. I spoke to Mattocks myself. He denied calling anybody on to the field in the USA game. He felt that his agent did try to get in touch with the JFF about the camp prior to Antigua, and admitted that, perhaps, he could have been a little bit more vigilant with following up.
He also admitted that he didn't play his best in the Caribbean Cup, but pointed out that he did not play in the position to which he was accustomed but he did give his best. And he said he had no idea of the 'hype' allegations.
The sooner the JFF and Mattocks get over this hurdle, the better. The country needs a goal magnet, and he may well be still our best option.
Orville Higgins is a sportscaster with KLAS FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.