By Neto Baptiste
Former Empire midfielder, Lennie Quashie, believes the 13 times Premier Division champions were successful mainly because of the players’ attitude towards training and the involvement of the Gray’s Farm community.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Quashie, who was known for his dazzling skills on the ball, believes that many of the championships won by the once dominant team, were captured on the training ground.
“I have always said to people that Empire won its championships at King George, not at the recreation or police grounds. We won them at King George V Grounds because at King George is when we were putting in the work, so when we get up to the ARG, the Police Recreation Grounds and the YASCO and so on, it was just a matter of execution,” he said.
“When the coach said to you at King George that l’ook, we are not pressing these guys down in the defense’ that we must come back to half-line, people like Gantone [Andy Nesbitt] and Boast [Conrad Whyte] had the discipline to know that you come back to half-line and then we move forward as a team. That was done at King George, not at the recreation grounds, not at the police grounds,” he added.
The former national player who won at least four top flight titles with the Empire outfit, admitted he wasn’t motivated when it came to attending training sessions but said he knew the importance of being at the venue and leading by example.
“As much as I didn’t really like to say okay, practice at 4 pm, and so on, I know that I needed to be there and I got my inspiration, motivation and that drive. When I see the Epilus [Veron Edwards] and so on doing five, 10 or 15 laps and leading the pack and I am behind there struggling but I know I can’t drop out because I see that is the overtime [in a game] and when we go overtime at recreation ground I can’t manage because I dropped out at King George so I want to stay with the pack and that motivate me,” he said.
The drive and passion of the community, Quashie added, was also an integral part of the team’s success.
“At the end of practice you would see the Swango Mark, Mama [Gretna Francis] and everybody who are all coaches and telling you what to do and what not to do and how you played and whatnot, so it was an experience that not even my college experience could be compared to what I had at King George,” the former player said.
Empire won titles in 1969, 70, 71, 72, 73 and 74-75. They returned to their winning ways in 1978/79 before winning again in 1987/88. After lifting the trophy once more in 1991/92, the Gray’s Farm team went on to become four-peat champions from 1997/98 to 2000/01.