Wed | Nov 29, 2023

Get coach Donaldson back!

Published:Tuesday | October 3, 2023 | 12:09 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

In a parallel universe, Lorne Donaldson would have come home to Jamaica to a fat pay package, public speaking engagements, and the acclaim of his countrymen after helping the Reggae Girlz to make history at the recent Women’s World Cup. He is, after all, the nation’s most successful international football coach, as no other team in our FIFA World Cup history had emerged from the first-round group stage and participated in the knockout round.

This universe is different. Instead of the rosy scenario outlined above, Donaldson is no longer the coach of the team he helped to perform so well Down Under. It’s stunning.

I keep hoping that it’s just the first stage in salary-package negotiation with each side starting poles apart, only for the chasm to narrow by the time a subsequent round of talks are held.

I’m not sure what was said, in what was reported to be a brief meeting between the coach and the JFF, but I am sure that Donaldson’s departure from the job is exactly what the Reggae Girlz don’t need at this time. When he took over from Hue Menzies, there was a sense of continuity, since he was a part of Menzies’ staff when Jamaica qualified for, and competed at, the 2019 World Cup. With Donaldson at the control tower and 10 members of the 2019 squad back on duty for the 2023 campaign, Jamaica looked, more and more, like a team capable of becoming a power at the high level.

In football, coaches can sometimes appear to be eminently disposable. A run of bad results can jeopardise even the most successful manager. However, even with Jamaica’s recent losses to Canada in Olympic-qualifying competition, Donaldson is coming off the greatest success in our football history. The Reggae Boyz reached the World Cup in 1998 and actually beat Japan 2-1 in their last group game. By then, after big losses to Argentina and Croatia, advancement was out of the question.

That was monumental.

The Girlz didn’t manage to win a game in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but they did score a goal, courtesy of Havana Solaun who netted in a 4-1 loss to Australia.

The Lorne Donaldson-coached 2023 Reggae Girlz rewrote all of that history. With work, and the construction of a midfield group that could move the ball forward to the likes of Ballon D’Or nominee Khadija Shaw, the 2027 Girlz could be even more formidable.

Perhaps some other coach can do the job, but we’ve already seen how Donaldson has improved on the work of coach Menzies. It simply makes sense that he be given the opportunity to push on from here.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.