Barnes scouts regional prodigies

With the Digicel Kick Start Clinics now in their fifth year and only four countries left in this year’s programme, England and Liverpool football legend and kick start head coach John Barnes says he’s seeing positive development among the aspiring young footballers and is finding it increasingly harder to choose only three from each country.

Having just completed the Grenada leg of the clinics, Barnes chose 15-year-old Trent Peters and 16-year-olds Anjanni Ambrose and Kereem Woodroofe to go through to the Digicel Academy – where they will undergo a week-long training programme under coaches from Chelsea Football Club. In addition, what is most encouraging is the fact that the current Grenada Under-20 Captain, Shevonn John Brown, was a participant of the Digicel 2011 Academy.

Barnes said; “Back here in Grenada I have seen a lot more talent emerging – but what is really fantastic to see is that the talented young boys from previous years’ clinics are emerging in their own careers – with Shevonn Brown now current captain of the Grenada U20s – and three other boys from last year’s clinic training in England and playing in the national league here.

“I feel good with my picks from Grenada again this year. I’ve spotted one or two excellent young players who I could have chosen this year based on their skills, but decided not to put them forward because at only 13-years-old, they are too young. For me, I wouldn’t take the risk of sending them to the Digicel Academy where they would go up against 15 and 16 year-olds from across the region, bigger guys who are more developed – I would be afraid that could knock their confidence so I have held back from choosing them for another couple of years.”

Grenada Football Association President Chenney Joseph said; “Digicel’s commitment to Caribbean football provides the greatest opportunity for the region’s development of its fine footballers. The company’s vision has provided opportunities not otherwise readily available to these youngsters.”

Following on from the trio of medals for the Jamaican 200 metre sprinters at the London Olympics, Jamaican-born Barnes stated the feat was impressive.

“What a fantastic win for Jamaica. To be honest I expected a one-two for Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake – I hadn’t even heard of Warren Weir. But Jamaica is the home of sprinters – this is now another one off the production line.”

The clinics continued through St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis this month as Barnes searches for the region’s top football talent. The Digicel Academy will take place in Barbados in October this year.

Barnes was recently in Trinidad and Tobago where in spite of inclement weather, the sixth leg of the clinics programme went ahead in Port of Spain. Barnes called it “a display of some of the best talent to date.”

The chosen three from Trinidad, Yafeu Rougier, Taryk Sampson and Anthony Samuel, will join their peers from across eight other countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States at the week-long Digicel Academy in October this year. The region’s top talent will be put through their paces by coaches from Chelsea FC where they will experience what life is like as a professional footballer.

Yafeu Rougier spoke about how it felt to be chosen, saying; “I am very excited and I am very much looking forward to meeting new people and learning from the Chelsea coaches – as well as to travelling to Barbados for the first time. I have been playing football for the past eight years and I now play for the W Connection team in the Youth Trinidad and Tobago Pro League in which I was last year’s top scorer.

“The Digicel Clinic with John Barnes was a great experience as his first-hand coaching provided me with useful information, explanations and tips on how to better my game. I am looking forward to Barbados as I expect to get even more useful tips on mastering my play.”

Barnes expressed his delight with the talent on display; “I was really impressed with this year’s display of talent in Trinidad. I was really surprised in fact – it’s been the best so far of this year’s programme. To be clear, the quality is always high here, but this year I found the quantity of excellent players has increased and I could easily have chosen 12 or 13 boys – which is fantastic and speaks to the ongoing development of football in the country. I was so impressed that I have recommended a number of names to a US scout working here on the ground as potential drafts to soccer scholarships.”

The clinics wrap up in the coming week in Jamaica as Barnes searches for the region’s top football talent.

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