Shaun Goater believes Bermuda football is heading in the right direction despite the disappointing 4-1 home loss to Panama on Thursday night.
Goater, a former Bermuda team-mate of coach Kyle Lightbourne, found some positives in the defeat to the Central Americans in the Concacaf Nations League opener.
The former Manchester City forward, who lives in England, watched the game from the grandstand as Bermuda put up a brave fight before being undone by their superior opponents.
“I definitely don’t think Panama were three goals better; I would say two at the most,” said Goater, who was a special guest at the Sports Forum organised by the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation at Bermuda College, last night.
“I would also say that we could have got a draw out of that.
“I don’t think we are a million miles away from Panama, but I do think, because I experienced it myself, there is another level that we’ve got, a psychology part.
“Some top players use psychology to go to another level in terms of being in the zone and understanding their role. With that side of it, you get the ability to block out the crowds.
“I had experienced that at my elite level and that is the next level for our players.
“There is a time, two or three years, that we will have a national squad that is fully professional.
“That’s inevitable, and that time may be sooner with the introduction of a sports psychologist.
“Our crowds are no different to 40,000 in England, they are brutal if you miss a chance, ‘oh, he’s rubbish, take it him’. I do feel there is a level that we can get to, that level where the players have the ability to block things out.”
Goater, who works as a football pundit for Sky Sports in England, was watching Bermuda for the second time in a few months after travelling to the United States for their Gold Cup match against Nicaragua in New Jersey in June, a match Bermuda won 2-0 at the Red Bull Arena.
“We made noise and I saw how we responded to that,” he said of the Nicaragua match. “Last night, we had moments like that, and the players hear it and feed off it.
“What it creates is a momentum for not just a two-minute spell, but a ten minute spell.
“I’ve been impressed with Bermuda and how we’ve played the last year or so; Kyle has really taken us to another level. It was something that was always needed, once we had some resources put into the programme to be able to prepare players right.
“The other thing is now we’ve got more players playing professionally, and that game management they understand. If Kyle was coaching seven years ago and said, ‘manage the game’ it would go over their heads. But now, with four or six players playing professionally, they understand.”
Goater revealed his plan is to set up an academy in England in the next couple of years for young Bermudian players looking to follow in his footsteps as a professional.
He was part of a five-member panel, also including former triple jumper Brian Wellman, football coach Maceo Dill, Katura Horton-Perinchief, a former diver, and Sullivan Phillips, a former basketball player, that spoke about their journeys in sport, giving advice to the young athletes and sports officials in attendance.
The forum continues today and tomorrow at the Bermuda College.