Coley: Flemmings was poised to move up to MLS or into Europe
The rise of Junior Flemmings in the professional ranks of US football surprised few, including his coach at Jamaica College (JC) Miguel Coley.
Flemmings, in a few short years, had become a sensation in the the US second tier, the United Soccer League (USL) Championship.
And even though he has had noteworthy stints at New York Red Bulls II and Tampa Bay Rowdies, it is with current employers Phoenix Rising that he has made his greatest impact to date.
Since joining the Phoenix outfit last year, Flemmings — playing mostly as an attacking midfielder — has scored 39 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions.
And even though he will play no further part, the Jamaican was on Wednesday named the recipient of the USL Golden Boot with 14 goals.
Flemmings — accused and found guilty by the league’s organisers for using a Jamaican gay slur against an opponent during a game last week — has plummeted from the zenith of his game.
He has been banned for six matches and fined an undisclosed sum by the USL.
The 24-year-old Reggae Boyz midfielder, who has denied the charges against him, has the backing of his former high school coach Coley, who believes that the “talented” player has the capacity to bounce back from his fall from grace.
“This is definitely a setback in his career, but he will rise from this as a better person; certainly more cognisant of inclusiveness and he will be more vigilant.
“It’s a very sensitive time in the world and I hope soon he can get an opportunity to display himself as a peace ambassador, but he will need all the help he can get,” Coley was quoted in Wednesday’s edition of the Jamaica Observer.
But Coley, who currently coaches club football in the United Arab Emirates, said Flemmings, as a schoolboy, had demonstrated qualities of a player capable of making the grade in the professional game and was on his way in fulfilling that promise.
“I definitely expected him to matriculate into the professional level based on his solid foundation laid even before my input, with his physical literacy, his desire and motivation from community, school and the wider Jamaica,” said the highly successful schoolboy coach.
“I am definitely proud of him and believe, based on his consistent performances over the years in the USL, he would soon be moving into the MLS [Major League Soccer] or into Europe. His impact on Phoenix Rising was clear, in not only good play, but good attitude and fair play,” he said.
Coley, a former Boyz assistant coach, said the prodigious Flemmings had also demonstrated the ambition to wear the colours of his native Jamaica, a desire which was manifested in him coming up through the youth ranks and into the senior outfit.
“I would have coached him at the stage of ‘training to compete’ and based on his performance then, I am not surprised he is a part of the national senior team,” noted Coley.
Meanwhile, the players’ agent Damani Ralph told the Observer on Wednesday that “at this moment Junior Flemmings is doing fine”.
“He is using the time to help with homeschooling of his daughter due to the pandemic, but unfortunately this is all I can say at this time,” said the former Boyz striker and top talent in the MLS in his heyday.
On Tuesday, the USL Championship said in a statement that Flemmings had been found guilty of using “foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur” during Phoenix’s game with San Diego Loyal.
San Diego’s players walked off the pitch in protest following the incident, with Loyal coach, Landon Donovan, later backing the decision.
The USL said it had reached its decision against Flemmings after interviews with 11 individuals, including players, coaches, and match officials.
In a statement, Phoenix Rising Manager Bobby Dulle said the club had accepted the investigation’s findings and noted that Flemmings would spend the remainder of his contract, which expires next month, on administrative leave.
The club, said Flemmings, whose contract concludes on November 30, would be provided with “resources he needs to learn and grow from this, so that he may become a model for change in our sport”.
El Salvado midfielder Narciso Orellana (right) and Jamaica forward Junior Flemmings vie for the possession of the ball during their Concacaf Gold Cup Group C match at BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas, on June 21, 2019.
COLEY...HIS impact on Phoenix Rising was clear, in not only good play, but good attitude and fair play