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Managers run players’ careers — they can also ruin them

A footballer’s career can often be shaped by his club manager. Their decisions will determine whether it becomes a case of pain or gain.

With so many Bermudian players in the news these days — enough overseas to fill the entire national team — it’s imperative they step up their work ethic, doing everything they can to impress the boss.

Not that Bradford City’s Nahki Wells has too much to worry about. Every time he laces up his boots, there’s relief in the dressing room and in the stands.

The Bantams’ boss, Phil Parkinson, is desperate to keep his star striker at Valley Parade. And so he should, given his phenomenal scoring streak.

But it’s a two-way street.

The gaffer — for no good reason, football is the only sport where the manager inherits such a moniker — at Carlisle United, Wells’s former club, was not overly impressed by the Bermudian and, had it not been for Parkinson, his career could have been over before it began.

The professional careers of two other Bermudians may also lay in the hands of their manager.

Jonte Smith is on the fringe of the breaking into the Crawley Town first XI; he has already made a few appearances on the bench.

But Crawley, who play in the same English division as Bradford, League One, recently sacked their maanger, Richie Barker, and left Martin Hinshelwood, the chief scout, and Gary Alexander, the veteran forward, in caretaker charge.

Barker had enough faith in Smith to recall him twice after loan spells. He could have easily released or sold him, but it appeared he was grooming him for bigger and better things.

It may be a while before a new manager is appointed at Crawley and what happens between now and then could make a huge difference as Smith attempts to make his mark in the English game.

Crawley have not won in eight matches and have scored only one goal.

This weekend, the club feature in the second round of the FA Cup — one round away before the Premier League big boys enter the fray — and there’s every chance that Smith and other young players will get their chance to stake their claim for first-team football.

A proven goalscorer during his loan spell with Met Police in the lower leagues, Smith needs to show he can fit in at a higher level. He will be watched closely by the two men in charge.

Across the pond, Bermudian Reggie Lambe, who could not quite make the grade during his time at Ipswich Town, the Championship side, has retained his place in the Toronto FC squad despite an indifferent season in Major League Soccer.

While others were let go, Tim Bezbatchenko, the Toronto general manager, chose to keep Lambe on the Canadian club’s roster. That may have come as a surprise, but, whatever his reason, Lambe gets another bite at the cherry.

Had he been released, he might have gone the same way as Khano Smith — downwards. After leaving the New England Revolution, it was never the same for the national team skipper.

Managers don’t only run clubs, they run players’ careers. They can ruin them.

Ask Shaun Goater. A Manchester City hero who propelled the club into the Premier League and scored three goals in one season against arch rivals Manchester United, quickly found that out when former England striker Kevin Keegan arrived. “The Goat” no longer featured in the club’s plans.

Now linked with Scunthorpe United in a managerial role, it could be the former North Village man who will be making or breaking a player’s career. Hopefully not one from his own island!

* * * *

If the proposed Caribbean Major League Football comes to fruition, what chances a Bermuda team being included? Virtually nil.

The financial demands would make it impossible.

As the owners of Bermuda Hogges found out, the cost of travelling only up and down the East Coast proved to be prohibitive.

Teams flying to the Caribbean, either through Miami or New York, would find it even more expensive.

Over the years, the Bermuda Football Association has been starved of international fixtures because it cannot afford to bring in teams; nor could it afford to travel elsewhere — not even to the Caribbean or Central America.

The best Bermuda players can hope for is to join one of the 20 Caribbean clubs who are expected to play in the four hub countries if the plan goes ahead.

But even if they show enough talent, it’s still likely that their preference will be to ply their trade in Europe.