Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Downes: Urgent need for better playing surfaces in Jamaica

Published:Saturday | July 31, 2021 | 12:08 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Walter Downes, Mount Pleasant’s coach
Walter Downes, Mount Pleasant’s coach

Mount Pleasant technical director and coach, Englishman Walter ‘Wally’ Downes, says there is an urgent need for better playing surfaces in Jamaica, in order for the nation’s young footballers to develop quality technical skills and confidence as players.

Downes, who played in the English first division (now premier league) in the 1980s for Wimbledon and coached at clubs such as West Ham, Southampton and Crystal Palace, was contracted by the St Ann-based club last August to develop its youth programmes.

He pointed out that from his experience in England, when footballers are provided with immaculate playing surfaces from a tender age, it allows them to comfortably hone their technical abilities and this, he said, build their confidence as they develop into competent professionals players.

“The players (in England and Jamaica) have the same enthusiasm. They have the same energy levels.

“What has been lacking (in Jamaica) I think is that in England, the kids are coached on very good surfaces. Every kid has access to that. The problem in Jamaica is that the kids don’t have enough of these surfaces to play on,” he told The Gleaner.

“Some of the younger kids (in Jamaica) their muscle memory (the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought) and their technique are not as honed as the younger kids in England.

“They (English kids) have five, six years or more which they spend mastering their techniques, simple things like passing and such on really good surfaces and they hone their touch.

“Unfortunately, some of the younger Jamaican guys they still have bad surfaces training on and consequently they cannot really trust their touch. They are looking to receive the ball and then six inches from their foot there’s bad bounce or a bad bubble, and I really feel for the Jamaican guys,” he reasoned

“Kids play football all around the world in different environment but the better the facility you can offer them, the better player they become quicker.

“It is a testament to their enthusiasm for the game that they working keep at it. But the quality surface is not here for the Jamaican guys and I hope it improves in the future,” he added.

Downes, who also coached in the Indian Super League, believes the structure being established by his club, Mount Pleasant Football Academy, is ideal for the development of young players and noted that the club was also in the process of acquiring a synthetic surface at the academy to address that particular need of proper playing surfaces for young players.

“Although I said that the infrastructure and surfaces need to become better, I was pleasantly surprised when I came and saw the amount of work that went into the Mount Pleasant school. The academy there is very very good, also the education side of things, the dormitory they have there and the plans now for a synthetic surface there.

“It is an eye-opener and it is as good as any English academy. It is a terrific facility and I could not praise it any higher,” he commented.