Jamal Gay, after a hiatus through injury, will return to top-flight football this season in the Pro League, committing to himself as a player of experience in a youthful MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers side. But warns opponents “once I am fit—I score goals.”
The former Trinidad and Tobago international forward links up with experienced shot-stopper and former Soca Warrior Cleon John, 36, who will enter his third season at Rangers when the First Citizens Cup kicks off on the weekend.
Both will serve as experience in coach Adrian Romain’s new-look squad, in which half the roster are aged 21 and below and more than eighty percent of all players, among them Malik Jabari Mayers, Jerome Cyrus and former Carapichaima Secondary captain Collin Wheeler, are all looking towards their top-flight debut.
Gay, 29, however had been side-lined for most of the last two years following a knee injury suffered after scoring San Juan Jabloteh’s final goal in a 9-0 thrashing of Flames United of Sint Maarten in the first round of the 2016 Caribbean Club Championship on Mar. 10, 2016.
Last season he joined Club Sando but was subsequently released by the Oranges. He nevertheless thanks club owner Eddison Dean and coach Angus Eve for a “commendable” effort in trying to work with him towards returning to full fitness after signing him injured.
“I am here (at Rangers) to encourage the younger guys but also it will come with my effort to score some goals,” said Gay who had stints abroad with German Bundesliga 2 outfit RW Oberhausen (2009-10) and Finland top-flight team Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS) (2014).
“I may not be the perfect example but I have gained experience over the years and that can be beneficial to younger players,” added the ex-Morvant Caledonia United frontman. “Some of the young guys at Rangers aren’t known names but already I see potential that with the right coaching and performances they can go on to represent Trinidad and Tobago.”
Gay can also be an inspiration to a wider spectrum of young men, not just on the football field.
Though frustrated by his injury setback, Gay took the time to shift his focus back on his education on the advice of his parents and close friends and the former El Dorado (East) Secondary student improved his academic tally (now at six O Levels and one A-level) with CXC English and Social Studies the most recent—the latter achieved through tutoring from Sonja Tyson, a friend of his family and Social Studies teacher at Tranquillity Government Secondary.
He also became certified as a real estate agent (though non-practicing) and last December landed a job at Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC).
Gay did not stop there. He currently co-hosts “Rep Ya Team” (a sport talk show which airs on Synergy TV) alongside radio presenter Chrislon ‘Verse’ Benfield and Johnathon Bourne, and is an ambassador for Trini Talent, a newly-formed player management company, headed by Wilt James.
But a strong desire to give back through the sport he said had given him “so much”, Gay will suit up for Rangers this season.
“I’m not one hundred percent where I want to be,” Gay conceded. “But I’m at a much better place now. And it was not possible without the support of my (immediate) family and close friends including the Tyson family. Their encouragement and my prayers made it possible. God has a way of doing things. I have to think that my injury guided me to make a U-turn and to do some things I had left out of my focus.”
Rangers head coach Romain said that while Gay has more of a motivational role within his new squad, it also presents an opportunity for the forward renew himself.
Romain, who took charge of the habitual underdogs of the Pro League from Anthony Streete midway through the 2017 campaign, also believes his “young and energetic” side can surprise by challenging for a top-five league finish and a knockout title in 2018.
“Last season we did not have the commitment of the players,” Romain said. “I hope that is now behind us now because I have single-handedly selected our current squad. We have a very energetic squad that will have the experience of guys like Cleon (John) and Jamal (Gay) who we are blessed to have.”
MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers 2018 roster
Goalkeepers: Cleon John, Christopher Byng and Jabari St. Hillaire (U21);
Defenders: Holan Joseph, Kevin Pilgrim, Renaldo Alexander, Marvin Springer, Keithen Carter (U21), Kwame Hazel and Andel Brown;
Midfielders: Maliq Gumbs (U21), Shem Alexander, Kristian Meloney, Jabari Malik Mayers (U21), Tyrell Daniel Cameron (U21), Gerald Kipp Meloney, Jerome Cyrus (U21), Colin Wheeler (U21), Joshua Clarke (U21), Saleem Henry (U21), Francis Rojas, Kaleb Douglas and Dominic Douglas (U21);
Forwards: Keon Peters, Isiah Mc Lean (U21), Jamal Gay, Allister Bernard (U21), Imaani Johnson (U21), Braxton Gibbs and Kevon Edwards (U21).
Staff: Adrian Romain (Coach/Trainer); Holan Joseph (Player/Assistant Coach); Michael Taylor (Physiotherapist); Kern George (Statistics Manager), Cleon John (Player/Goalkeeper Coach); Eric Moore (Equipment Manager); Marisa Charles (Team Administrator); and Stephen Ortega (Social Media).
Other players movements.
Sean De Silva from Central FC to Queen's Park Cricket Club (TTSL)
Elton John from North East Stars to Queen's Park Cricket Club (TTSL)
Keston George from North East Stars to Queen's Park Cricket Club (TTSL)
Yohance Marshall from North East Stars to Queen's Park Cricket Club (TTSL)
Kevon Villaroel from North East Stars to Queen's Park Cricket Club (TTSL)
Julius James from North East Stars to FC Motown (NPSL).