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Tue, Jun

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Kerwin "Hardest" Jemmott returned to his Nelson Street home on Saturday night where he will spend the next three weeks recovering from a shoulder injury that ruled him out of a trial with a Hungarian football club.


At 28, Jemmott is revered for several attributes but defiance is rarely one of them. There was encouraging news for fans of the inner-city star, though, as the gifted playmaker promised to rebound from his latest setback and continue a late push towards fulfilling his potential.

"It is a disappointment," Jemmott told the Express. "But it is a small injury and I will come back strong. (My goal is) to go back out there and work hard and make it big."

The Superstar Rangers midfielder had a message for his fans, too. "Never say die."

Jemmott was scheduled to depart for trials in Hungary today. He might have felt particularly heartened by news that, last week, his close friend and fellow Nelson Street resident Densill Theobald-the present Trinidad and Tobago captain-signed a one-year deal with Hungarian First Division team Ujpest FC.

Rangers coach Anthony Streete kept Jemmott on the bench at kick off against CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Saturday. Trailing by an early goal, Streete introduced Jemmott at the interval but he was soo n on his way to the St Clair Medical Centre after an unfortunate collision.

Rangers club owner Richard Fakoory revealed Jemmott's deep frustration at St Clair.

"He was really upset," said Fakoory, "especially after hearing that Rangers lost the match. He still wants to go (to Hungary) but there is no way I can send him like that.

"The doctor said he has to stay away from football for three weeks but Jemmott said 'no way'. If it were up to him, he would be training Monday morning but I have got to stop him."

Fakoory might be afraid of Jemmott harming himself but the player's apparent zeal to don football boots offers some reassurance to fans and skeptics alike.

He might never silence doubters of his temperament but his skills are beyond reproach.

Jemmott's silky passes and clever shuffles have made him a local hero and outweigh his actual returns in a national shirt.

Nine years ago, the then 19-year-old maestro made his international debut in a 2-1 loss to Saudia Arabia in France.

Former World Cup stars Sami Al-Jaber and Saeed Al-Owairan scored for Saudia Arabia while Irasto Knights was on target for Trinidad and Tobago.

Jemmott played from the start and held his place for the 1998 Caribbean Cup tournament, three months later, alongside the likes of David Nakhid, Stern John, Clint Marcelle and captain Anthony Rougier.

Trinidad and Tobago, coached by Bertille St Clair, finished in second place after a controversial 2-1 loss to Jamaica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

"My first break was with Bertille St Clair and I would like to wish him my thanks," said Jemmott."I will never forget him for that."

The return of Jemmott's own icon, Russell Latapy, in 1999 seemed to diminish the former's playing chances, though. Remarkably, the two never played together in the red, black and white strip.

By then, St Clair had grown frustrated with Jemmott's penchant for unexplained absences from training sessions.

Jemmott, then 21, was signed by English lower league outfit, Oxford United, but had his move cancelled due to work permit complications and, he admitted, the disappointment affected his approach to the game.

In 2001, New York/New Jersey Metrostars offered Jemmott a chance to play professionally in the United States Major League Soccer (MLS) but had a change of heart after his slow return from Trinidad for the start of the season.

Jemmott claimed he had suffered because of a lengthy delay in getting his work permit. His mother, Donna Jemmott, died in 2002 and Hardest temporarily quit the professional game altogether.

Donna, who worked at the Kapok Hotel as a cleaner for 15 years, had begged him to use his talent to free his family from their humble surroundings.

"My mother was really my heart," said Jemmott. "She was my motivation and it was a lot of stress for me. She had always wanted me to make it and move from which part I am now."

By the start of St Clair's second spell in 2004, Jemmott had just 17 caps with no goals to show from six years of international action under seven different coaches.

His present record boasts 34 appearances with two goals-his sole item in Trinidad came from a low freekick in a 2007 Caribbean Cup 3-1 group win over eventual champs, Haiti, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Dutchman Leo Beenhakker never gave Jemmott a run with the squad that eventually qualified for the 2006 World Cup but the player's re-emergence with Superstar Rangers impressed Beenhakker's compatriot and present coach, Wim Rijsbergen.

Jemmott was key to the Warriors' second place finish at the Caribbean Cup earlier this year and was earmarked for his first Gold Cup appearance when he tore his hamstring in the 2007 Pro Bowl final, which Rangers lost to Connection on penalty kicks.

The weekend's mishap means another three weeks out for Jemmott at, arguably, a critical period in his career. But there are signs that, at 28, he is better equipped to deal with such pitfalls.

Fakoory admitted that Jemmott did allow himself the luxury of one unauthorised break last season, while Rijsbergen barred him from a national session in March after another unexplained absence.

Both men accepted the player's apology and showed faith in his slow rehabilitation.

"He had a bad patch when he missed some sessions this season," said Fakoory, "but we sat down and talked and he settled down. I told him 'you have to help yourself' and I think he understands that this is his last shot to get a contract outside.

"He has been good with us. I do not know if he likes the way we handle him or if we are just lucky.

"He is a gifted player. He is my franchise player along with Errol McFarlane." Rangers and Trinidad and Tobago fans await Jemmott's latest reincarnation.