Newcastle's Next Goalscoring Winger & 4 Other Caribbean Prodigies
A relatively untapped resource in the world of football, I have a look at some of the hottest prospects in Caribbean football and how they'd fit into life in the Premier League...
Leighton Thomas Jr. – Cayman Islands – 14
On the surface it might seem stupid to talk up someone who is barely in their teenage years, but, this someone is special. The inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 Championship kicked off in September, a brand new youth-orientated competition set up to try and promote aspiring Caribbean footballers. Cayman Islands were the hosts and Thomas Jr. was their key man. Just 14, he scored a staggering 12 goals over five group matches (including five on the opening day) all from defensive midfield. Athletic, combative and a fine distributor of the ball, Cayman Islands’ rough diamond enjoyed a splendid tournament and has all the attributes to be a success in Europe. (And yes, I realise his tender age but having seen him, he’s good. Really good.)
Likely Premier League destination:Chelsea. This tenacious character would undoubtedly shine and grow under more intense and high quality coaching. Thomas Jr. would get it at the likes of Chelsea and even if nothing came to pass, he’d still be in with a very good chance of signing for another team in England. That in itself would be an immense achievement for a footballer from the Cayman Islands.
Joevin Jones – Trinidad & Tobago - 22
Although predominantly a left-back, Jones is a prolific scorer for his club W Connection in his homeland Trinidad & Tobago. He has only recently made the breakthrough into the first team having played 21 times last season, scoring 11 goals. An attacking force down the left flank, he can also slot in as a winger and has done so on occasion for the national team – for whom he has featured over 30 times. Jones has made the left back position for club and country his own and doesn’t look like relinquishing the role anytime soon.
Likely Premier League destination:Newcastle. He’d provide solid backup to Davide Santon and is good enough to cope with the rigours of playing for a top half Premier League side.
Jeff Louis – Haiti – 21
I followed this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup with great interest and one of the standouts of Haiti’s performance was the diminutive Jeff Louis. The AS Nancy midfielder was on the brink of not travelling with the national squad to the tournament because of reported disciplinary reasons – with Louis known to possess a bad attitude – but luckily for Haiti he went and made a huge difference. In the group game against Trinidad & Tobago he starred in a central role and looked razor sharp in summer friendlies against Spain and Italy. Needs to work on discipline but a raw talent.
Likely Premier League destination:Fulham. I’d imagine London life would suit Louis well and the current Cottagers crop can sometimes lack pace and drive on the wings. Mind you, Jol would have to keep a lid on his sporadic tantrums.
Alvas Powell – Jamaica – 19
Born and raised in the small, peaceful village of Danvers Pen – nothing like the hustle and bustle of urban life - this exciting 19-year-old is set for a bright future. Contracted to Jamaican top-flight side Portmore United, Powell is currently on loan at Portland Timbers of the MLS. The defender’s rise has been magical: impressing with Portmore in the league to participating in the 2011 Under-17 World Cup in Mexico to being called up to the seniors for World Cup qualifying. Now, he is making a name for himself in America and is destined to take up the central defensive role for Jamaica in the future.
Likely Premier League destination:Everton. Powell is an ambitious lad and similar to Sylvain Distin in his physique and movement. When Distin finally hangs up his boots, the Jamaican should already be a full international and ready to represent a top eight club.
Jonte Smith – Bermuda – 19
For such a small country, Bermuda isn’t bad at producing well-honed, competent footballers right? Just look at Shaun Goater, Kyle Lightbourne and Nahki Wells. 19-year-old striker Jonte Smith is the next kid off the block. On loan at Havant & Waterlooville from League One club Crawley Town – Smith is hoping a taste of first team football in the lower reaches of English football will help him return to Crawley with an improved chance of playing week in week out. He arrived in England with the dream of becoming a professional footballer and having scored goals for fun with the likes of Met Police and Eastbourne Borough outside the Football League, it was inevitable that a higher tiered outfit would soon pick up on him. Fleet-footed, clever off the ball and a cool finisher – Smith’s next challenge is to break into the Bermuda senior team.
Likely Premier League destination:Stoke. Smith is a physical threat but not too shabby with the ball at his feet either. There isn’t a plethora of offensive options at Stoke and Smith would be a sound investment with the promise he has. Just look at Nahki Wells and his adjustment to life in English football.