Lightbourne faces tough call
Kyle Lightbourne says he is facing some tough decisions as he prepares to select his 23-man Bermuda squad for the Concacaf Gold Cup.
Lightbourne, the Bermuda head coach, admits that telling those players who will miss out on the island's first Gold Cup will be one of the hardest things he has had to do in football.
Over the next few days, Lightbourne and his coaches will dissect Bermuda's 2-1 win over São Miguel Azores at the National Stadium Saturday, which involved several players on the cusp of making the final cut.
Lightbourne has until June 3 to whittle down his provisional 40-man squad but said he intends on delivering the good or bad news to the players by the end of the week.
“We want to be able to pick our best team and players are going to miss out,” said Lightbourne, who led Bermuda to a fifth-place finish in the Nations League qualifiers.
“It's harsh, but that's what's going to happen. That's what competition brings and that's what we want.
“We've got some big decisions to make between now and Thursday. There's plenty of guys who have put the effort in and we will have to speak to them and do it right.”
Lightbourne, who coached Bermuda from 2005 to 2007, believes the talent pool at his disposal has never run so deep.
Despite taking no pleasure in making the ruthless calls he will have to make, Lightbourne welcomes the extra competition that comes with having an unprecedented number of players who have featured in professional or semi-professional leagues.
“I really don't enjoy [leaving players out],” Lightbourne added. “It happens to everybody and it happened to me later in my career [in England]. When you get to the higher level things get harder and players get better and better.
“We want the best players to play for Bermuda. We want all of those players who are getting all of that experience overseas to come and play for Bermuda.
“We want the Nathan Trotts to come and play for Bermuda. We want the Kane Crichlows to come and play for Bermuda. We want the best of the best.
“If you're Bermudian, come and play. Let's not be afraid [in attracting the best talent].”
With games against Haiti, Costa Rica and Nicaragua on the horizon, plus home and away matches against Mexico and Panama set for the autumn in League A of the Nations League, Lightbourne says Bermuda are entering into a whole different realm of international football.
“We're in a different space now in terms of the international level,” he said.
“It's there for the players. That's what the Nations League has provided. Our Nations League [qualifying] performances have put us in the Gold Cup.
“Do we want this all of the time? Yes, we do. This is just the beginning and this is the level we want to sustain, whoever is in charge. We want to keep growing.”
Although Reggie Lambe, a mainstay for Bermuda since making his debut against St Kitts and Nevis in 2007, is a Gold Cup certainty, he concedes several players are facing a nervous wait to learn their fate.
“A lot of people were quite tentative [against São Miguel Azores] because we're fighting for places for the Gold Cup,” said Lambe, who plays for League Two side Cambridge United.
“There's a lot of competition now and it will be interesting to see what squad is picked.
“Everyone knows only a select number of players can go to the Gold Cup and we're all trying to make sure we're in the side. We're all uplifting each other.”