Jamaica Gleaner / Halfway through the 1987 schoolboy football season, nobody tabbed St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) as potential Manning Cup champions … nobody except coach Lebert Halliman and his team. A series of drawn games and an early exit from the Walker Cup made such a view hard for an outsider to grasp. However, STATHS peaked perfectly and captured both the Manning Cup and the Olivier Shield.
The Manning Cup first round had yielded draws with Meadowbrook, Charlie Smith, Jamaica College and Trench Town and a single win, 2-1, over Ardenne. “Initially, we weren’t winning but we weren’t losing,” recalled Maurice Cyrus who was a striker on that team.
“So the first round, we were coming into our own,” Cyrus recounted, “Halliman was experimenting with the team in terms of the formation, who played what role and by the second round, it just all started clicking for us.”
The formation was a unique 2-6-2, with the wing backs level with a four-man midfield and with the license to overlap. “It gave us a lot of options and freedom in attack.” With this formation neutralising opponents, STATHS gathered momentum. After another draw with JC, wins over Camperdown High School and Dunoon Technical High School put STATHS in the final against Excelsior High.
For Halliman, it was the blossoming for a three-year plan. “My team has come on at the right time and we should not lose on Saturday,” he confidently told The Gleaner .
Listening to that quote 30 years later, Cyrus was taken aback. “Wow, that’s powerful and no one but Halliman would have said that,” he remarked. “It just goes to show the level of confidence we had in our ability and just the time when the team was gelling and clicking.”
The coach had groomed a fine team with Marvin Chin safe in goal, with Carl Binger and Carl Sewell at the back with captain Roderick Lawrence, Carl Halliman and Mark Miller supplying Cyrus and Davis with chances to score. Super sub Richard Curtis scored the goal that pushed STATHS past Ardenne and within reach of the Manning Cup.
In addition, the coach thoroughly studied the opposition. “It’s not only stats in terms of shots on goal”, Cyrus explained, “it’s number of back passes, how they attack, what side of the field they attack, who they attack through, where all of the build-up starts from.”
In the final, STATHS shot out of the blocks.
“At the start of the game, we pounced on them early, and we got some goals and we just never allowed them to settle down,” Cyrus reported with pride in his voice the day after a STATHS event on November 9 in Kingston to mark the 30th anniversary of the surprise win. Riled up by the suggestion that Dunoon would be a stronger opponent, Cyrus struck early on a STATHS set piece.
That goal came in the 14th minute and it started an avalanche. He scored twice more with Davis hitting the net too. In the end, STATHS had won the Manning Cup 6-1.
With that trophy in the bag, STATHS went to Jarrett Park to face an undefeated Rusea’s High School team that included future Reggae Boyz Aaron Lawrence, ‘Shortly’ Malcolm, Michael Graham and Mark ‘Hagler’ Wilson for the first leg of the Olivier Shield. That leg ended 0-0 and when the teams came to the National Stadium, Cyrus popped up with the winner in the second half.
“Winning that game was big”, he pronounced. “It was the crowning of St Andrew Technical as the best in the country that year and it was just the icing on the cake.” It was also a perfect present to the school in the year of its 25th anniversary.
Asked what made the 1987 STATHS team special, he was effusive. “We have bonding, we had understanding, we had focus, we had love and discipline,” he listed.