The best players will get picked
From time to time, you hear the argument that the national coach "ah fight against" local footballers. Whenever there is a local player who we think should get involved, and who struggles to get in the squad, some of us immediately assume that this is so because of some inherent bias against local players. I, too, have had my fair share of frustration when I see local players who are good enough to play, but their opportunities are few and far between. I have argued long and hard in the past about Jermaine Hue, Jermaine 'Tuffy' Anderson, Xavian Virgo, etc, who I thought didn't get the minutes that their talent deserved. Unlike others, however, I am not prepared to see this as a vendetta against locals. I will just simply boil it down to a difference of opinion between me and the coaches about the quality of a player. There is a subtle difference between those two positions.
Think about it. It is in the coach's best interest to have the best 11 on the field at all times. The better the 11 on the field, the greater the likelihood of victory, and by extension, the greater the chances of a coach keeping his job and improving his reputation. That is what every coach wants.
The thing is that the 'best 11' is a purely subjective exercise. Like the critics of art and music, football judges often look for different things, and a footballer may be rated highly by one coach and seen as a 'bug' by another. We all know the story of one producer turning up his nose at one DJ, while another producer 'voice him and buss him'. To suggest that the producer who didn't record him was 'fighting' him is being simplistic. If that producer had seen the talent and saw returns on his investment, then he would have recorded him, too.
So anybody who the coach thinks will add to his chances of winning, the coach will pick. If the coach thinks a player is good enough to help the team win, the coach will pick him, wherever he is from. The coach takes the kudos when the team wins, so it is in the coach's best interest to play anybody who will contribute to that process. That's basic common sense. So simply put, a lot of these local players don't get picked because the coach doesn't think they are good enough. It has nothing to do with not picking them based on the part of the world in which they play football.
The question is, why are some of our local players seen as good enough by us onlookers but don't get selected by the national coaches? It's a difficult question, and there is probably no one answer, but I have formulated what I think is the number-one cause. The players that we clamour for can blow hot and cold in a way that the England-based ballers do not. I'm a big fan of some local talent like Dino Williams, Romario Campbell, and Kemar Daley. On their day, they display sublime skills that make them seem comparable to anyone. On another day, their skill level seems to desert them.
We, the spectators, remember the brilliant days of these players and don't often think about the days when these players were off colour. We talk about their brilliant goals and their brilliant passes, but we conveniently forget the days when they turn up at a Premier League game and look ordinary. I've turned up at too many Premier League games and seen our best attacking players hitting shots that go 15 yards high. I've seen sometimes where they miss basic passes. By and large, that is the difference with these local players and the English recruits. The English players may not have the same flashy brilliance that the locals display sporadically, but they do tend to give you a more consistent showing. They may never set the place on fire and dazzle you with the beauty of their play, but they tend to put in solid shifts that don't look spectacular to the eyes but get the job done more often than not.
The head coaches for the reggae boys have tended to go for the safe 'journey man' kind of player rather than the ones who can be brilliant today but not so brilliant tomorrow.
- Orville Higgins is a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.