Leon needed better service to show talent – Butler

July 08, 2019
Jamaica’s Leon Bailey in action during a Concacaf Gold Cup match against Panama on June 30.
Jamaica’s Leon Bailey in action during a Concacaf Gold Cup match against Panama on June 30.

Along with a nagging injury, Craig Butler, Phoenix Academy's founder, says Leon Bailey's performance at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup was affected by his teammates' inability to comprehend the Bayer Leverkusen star's speed and style of play.

Butler told STAR Sports that in the early stage of the competition, the other players seemed unfamiliar with Bailey's speed of play and thought. However, he thought the chemistry between Bailey and his teammates developed as the tournament progressed.

"Leon has been nursing an ankle injury from the beginning of the tournament and Leon has been pushing 100 per cent to get the opportunities. But the amount of possession that Leon has had in games is nowhere near the service he would get at the higher level. So when you look at the early game and look at Leon's understanding of the game, you could see his upbringing was different from others," he said.

"When you have a talent like Leon and the whole game he barley touches the ball, it doesn't spell well. But that's because we don't have a midfielder that is able to deliver the passes, with the vision and speed Leon is moving at. And that is because of how they have been conditioned for years, and that is where the difference is."

Understanding and philosophy

He continued: "But as the competition progressed, they gelled more. So we need to build Jamaican players the same way, with the same understanding and philosophy, so that when they come back on their short breaks they don't need time to gel, they know what is expected of them."

Although Bailey didn't have the best of tournament, Butler thought his qualities on and off the field stood out and that he ignited a different, more attacking style of play in the Jamaican team, and he hopes coach Theodore Whitmore can develop a stronger attacking identity to match the talented group of players now at his disposal.

"In the Gold Cup, Leon showed his qualities not only on the pitch, but off it as well. He has exemplified what Phoenix stands for - discipline, leadership and teamwork. But Leon has also sparked in the national team a different style of play, which is well needed. So if we are going to be a defensive unit, don't call Leon Bailey," he stated.

"We are a brave, aggressive people, and in our football we are not showing that and be true to ourselves. So when we train and play, our philosophy must be attacking football. We have the personnel, it's the philosophy that is key. It has to be unified and that's where the challenge is, because everyone (coach) has a different philosophy. But we need a national philosophy."

Bailey played three of Jamaica's five Gold Cup matches and had two assists. His best performance came in the last game, the semi-final against the United States, where he assisted the team's only goal, which was scored by Shamar Nicholson.

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