VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Darren Mattocks and his future with the Vancouver Whitecaps have been big talking points since his bizarre appearance last month on Jamaican TV, where he blamed the club and former head coach Martin Rennie for his poor individual season.
The striker has since apologized to the Whitecaps and to fans via Twitter, and on Monday the reconciliation between player and club took another step with new head coach Carl Robinson suggesting the Jamaican speedster will get a fresh start when preseason begins in January.
“Darren’s a fantastic individual,” Robinson said of the 23-year-old forward during a press conference which unveiled him as the new Whitecaps coach. “He’s got fantastic attributes as a player. Obviously, Darren off the field maybe has been misquoted once or twice. But I know Darren’s footballing ability and I know what makes Darren tick and what doesn’t make Darren tick. Darren’s a big part of this club at the moment and he will continue to be while I’m here, unless that changes.
“So, come the first day at training camp I will be hard on Darren because I know he’s got so much potential. I said from the outset, it’s my job to unlock the potential of the young players and Darren certainly has got that. I look forward to that challenge because I have a good relationship with Darren. I know he can score goals but it’s getting him right. He wants to reach for the stars and I want to help him get to the stars.”
There's no doubt Mattocks has vast potential – he topped MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24 list in 2012 after a rookie season which saw him bag seven goals in 15 starts and add a goal in Vancouver's lone playoff game that season against the eventual MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.
This past season was a different story, however, with Mattocks starting four games consecutively before falling off the map altogether – Rennie never started the player in back-to-back matches again for the rest of the season, seemingly losing faith in the player.
Whether it was a poor individual season or a case of mismanagement is up for debate, but the end result was a year which was disappointing for both sides, with Mattocks notching just three goals and an assist from 20 appearances.
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But, it appears 2014 will be a fresh slate for the athletic attacker – after he makes amends in person.
“When he comes back, we'll sort that out... you can't make those kinds of comments and assume it's going to be swept under the carpet,” club president Bob Lenarduzzi said Monday. “Having said that, in my conversation with him, he was very apologetic and assured me that wouldn't be happening again.
“When he gets back, we'll move on. I know that he feels he's going to need to come back, get his head down and work hard, because he probably pissed a few people off in Vancouver, apart from us not liking it.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.