Co­ley: Flem­mings was poised to move up to MLS or into Europe

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - SPORT - ...Agent Da­mani Ralph says USL Golden Boot win­ner ‘do­ing well’ de­spite ban

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.

(Pho­tos: Ob­server­file)

CO­LEY...HIS im­pact on Phoenix Ris­ing was clear, in not only good play, but good at­ti­tude and fair play

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