Shocked by BFA’s St George’s snub
Appalled, disrespected, and offended, are all words I could use to describe my initial feelings last week when I saw that the Bermuda national football team's training squad did not include one St George's player.
How long are we in St George's going to be considered an outcast when it comes to football in Bermuda? What do we in St George's have to do to gain the respect of the rest of Bermuda, particularly the BFA coaching staff?
Last season St George's finished a credible fifth place in the league. They then went on to reach the Friendship semi-finals and the FA Cup quarterfinals where they lost only on penalties.
Jahron Dickenson finished second in the race for leading goal scorer behind Devonshire Cougars' Kwame Steede. In addition to those accomplishments, St George's had the second best defence in the league, with only champions North Village giving up fewer goals. This says a lot about their defence, but yet they receive no credit.
It amazes me how Jahron Dickinson, Earnest Signor and David Signor cannot get a call-up to train in a squad of 40. Wow, that is astonishing and reeks of politics.
I wonder if they were still playing for Dandy Town, and had recorded stats like this, if they would have been included. Even more amazing Dickinson was one of three players considered for the Young Player of the Year Award, but still no respect is shown.
I know some of you may be reading this and are saying 'here we go again, Clay Smith is being biased', but facts are facts.
For those of you who don't know my background, I have been part of a triple-crown championship team with Vasco. I was also a member of the North Village team that broke their 27-year-old wait for a league title, thus helping North Village to back-to-back league titles. So, yes, I do know a little about football. Right is right and wrong is wrong.
This fight has been going on for years and it is nothing new. St.George's has produced quality players for years that never got recognized until they have left St George's. Our current club president Neil Paynter is a prime example. He played all his football in St George's, was one of the best defenders in Bermuda, but never got the recognition he deserved.
Within a year or two of leaving St George's, and going to play for Dandy Town he was in the Bermuda national squad. Amazing? No facts!
Dean Minors and I have had many arguments with Town players about this same issue. I can recall Dean and I telling guys back in our playing days that he and I could walk into any team in town, whether it be North Village, Dandy Town, or Cougars, you name it. Now some years later the fight still goes on.
St George's have always been looked upon as a cricket club, but recently, under the coaching of Richard Todd, St George's football has gained the respect of many players Island wide. Last year St George's took points off mot teams with the exception of one.
With World Cup qualifiers coming up in three weeks, it really baffles me that we as a country have waited this late to start our campaign.
Are we really serious about qualifying? I don't think so. It appears we are looking to add players to the Hogges team that has been playing for the last few months.
However, to compete against decent World Cup qualifying teams you need continuity in your program. It is no wonder my brother-in-law Ralph Bean has no interest in playing for Bermuda if this is the preparation we are going to give our players. Let's face it; some players will go just for the trip, knowing they don't stand any chance of qualifying.
Don't get me wrong, I will be supporting Bermuda, and I do want to see them qualify to the next round but when you start wrong nine times out of 10 you will end wrong.
I want to put out a challenge to all the top coaches in Bermuda. Branch out! If you look at all the top coaches in Bermuda, they all like to coach at clubs where they feel they can have success. That's why I can give Richard Todd the utmost respect. For him to take a club like St George's and do what he did with them shows the quality of his coaching. I would like to see other so-called top coaches coach a team of far less quality and see how they make out. Then, and only then, will we see your true quality.
I managed to catch up with St George's coach Richard Todd to see how he felt about his players being overlooked for national squad selection and these are his comments: “I was surprised that beyond Freddy Hall, the initial pool of 40 players selected for the World Cup Qualifying campaign did not include any players from St George's Cricket Club.
“I have had positive dialogue with the national coaches and continue to be an advocate for my players who I feel have qualities to offer to the national team. My message to the St George's players is to keep themselves in the shop window through their performances in the upcoming Dudley Eve and league matches to force their way into reckoning.
“However, once and if a call up does come players have to be ready to meet the commitment and expectation levels set by the Bermuda coaches. I do feel that it is often easier for a player to earn a call-up coming from one of the so-called “big teams” but this is where we are striving to go with the St George's programme and with success comes recognition.”
At the end of the day regardless of who gets chosen to represent Bermuda we must be supportive of them and wish them the best.
However, I want to appeal to St George's players personally and tell them to prove the coaches, and the rest of Bermuda wrong. Prove to Bermuda that St George's do not only produce good cricketers, but we also produce good footballers.
The only way to do this is by earning the Island's respect and in order to do this you must win a trophy. Maybe then they will show you and your coach the respect that you deserve.