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Proud Kyle Lightbourne hoping to lead Bermuda back to Gold Cup

A prolific striker during his time with the Saddlers in the 90s, Kyle Lightbourne is now the proud manager of his country.

Kyle Lightbourne
Kyle Lightbourne

Lightbourne was part of Walsall's Third Division promotion-winning side of 1994/95 and one of the shining stars under Chris Nicholl, netting 85 times in 198 games.

These days, he is back in Bermuda and although they are footballing minnow – 166th in the current Fifa rankings – they have tended to punch above their weight under his guidance.

They just missed out on last year's Concacaf Gold Cup but got there in 2019, and Lightbourne is thriving on the prospect of upsetting nations such as the United States, Mexico and Canada.

It is a world away from Walsall, in all honesty, but he still makes regular visits back to the Midlands.

Lightbourne spoke to the Express & Star while back in the Black Country at the back end of last year and said on his Bermuda reign so far: "I started off as the under-20s manager, and then I got promoted to senior manager.

"It's been good. I've been able to take the under-20s to a championship, and the senior team to a championship as well.

"For us as a small, little country, I think we're punching above our weight. I'm enjoying it."

Lightbourne left Bermuda, a British territory, for England in his early 20s and played for Scarborough before being picked up by the Saddlers, forming a potent partnership with Kevin Wilson.

He would gain 40 national team caps, scoring 16 goals.

In terms of the players he can currently pick from, a fair few play their club football on the island.

There are some familiar faces plying their trade on these shores, too, though – Bristol City striker Nahki Wells being their captain.

Milan Butterfield, formerly of Walsall, has also featured over recent years along with ex-Rushall Olympic keeper Dale Eve and Solihull Moors' Justin Donawa.

"One of the problems with Bermuda is that it's hard to get a passport," explained Lightbourne.

"In order to play for the country, you need a Bermuda passport.

"Because we're such a small island, they don't give them out willy-nilly. So, all of our players are home-grown.

"Our most notable player right now is Nahki. He's our captain and one of our key players.

"Then, we have a lot of other guys who've played in lower leagues over here (in England) – non-league level, been in the league or at academies.

"We've got a pretty good bunch of players we can pick from."

According to the Fifa rankings, Bermuda are the 19th-best nation in their region.

Qualifying for the 16-team Gold Cup – held every two years – is therefore a difficult task, but Lightbourne has got them there before and, after losing a play-off to Haiti last time around, is determined to get into the 2023 tournament.

"There's some top players with a lot of ability. Haiti are one of the big-hitters in our region," he said.

"We've also played against Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama.

"Haiti we've played twice and they've beaten us on both occasions, although we should’ve beaten them the first time.

"Mexico beat us twice, but only with the last kick of the game the second time.

"We beat Panama away, too, so it's been going well. Long may it continue."

The honour of leading his country is not lost on Lightbourne, who added: "We're just trying to improve year upon year.

"Things have been going well for us. We just need to keep it going and carry on improving."

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