FOOTBALL: McCleary makes Jamaican debut

Jamaica’s Garath McCleary (left) battles for the ball with Mexico’s Severo Meza

Jamaica’s Garath McCleary (left) battles for the ball with Mexico’s Severo Meza

First published in Sport

Garath McCleary’s rise to the top has brought praise from Oxford United assistant manager Micky Lewis after he made his debut for Jamaica.

The 25-year-old, who hails from Blackbird Leys, won his first international cap on Wednesday night when helping Jamaica hold hosts Mexico to a 0-0 draw in their North, Central America and Caribbean World Cup qualifying clash.

In front of 40,000 supporters at the Azteca Stadium, the Reading winger made an eye-catching debut as the Reggae Boyz achieved one of their greatest results.

McCleary, a former student at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College, played for England Colleges Under 19s, but had unsuccessful trials at Oxford United and Leicester City.

After leaving Oxford City, he joined Slough and then Bromley.

And after impressing in a league game against Eastleigh, he was invited along to Forest for whom he signed in 2008, having shone in a trial.

Lewis, who coached McCleary when he was at college, says his success is fully deserved.

“He wasn’t that strong physically, but he went away and built himself up and he deserves everything he’s got now,” Lewis said.

“He didn’t quite make the grade to start off with, but he showed a real good desire to improve.

“He went away to Bromley, which is a fair trek from Oxford, but I remember seeing him after he’d been there a while and he was a man.

“All credit to him, he’s done a lot of hard work off his own back.”

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