Former TT Pro League champions Central FC will face Portmore United of Jamaica today as Pool B of the CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship kicks off in the Dominican Republic.
Central FC, who won a hat-trick of League crowns (2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17), have been grouped with Portmore United of Jamaica, Racing FC of Haiti and host club Atlantico FC, battling for one of two places in the 2018 Caribbean finals in May.
The 2017 Pro League season was disappointing for the “Couva Sharks” as they finished a lowly ninth in the 10-team standings. Financial woes saw the exit of most of the marquee players from the Brent Sancho-owned club which showed on the field.
Speaking before the team’s departure from Trinidad last Friday, coach Stern John acknowledged that it will be a tough ask for his team since they are in off-season, unlike their Jamaican opponents.
“It’s a massive challenge because the Jamaican team (is) in season,” said John, the former T&T star striker. “We know it’s that time of the year in Trinidad – Carnival time.”
However, he lauded the attitude of his new-look squad, which includes past and present national players including new captain Carlyle Mitchell, his deputy Densill Theobald, Kerry Baptiste, Cornell Glen, Keron Cummings, Anthony Wolfe, Nathan Lewis and Tyrone Charles.
“I think the guys are really professional enough, we had no problems with the guys (in) training,” said John. “They came out and worked their socks off. I think it’s a testament to all the good work we have been doing. I think we’re going to go there definitely to try to win it. We have a duty, hopefully we can gel together and get a good result.”
Referring to the chemistry within the team, John said, “I think the main thing when you have new players on board is getting them to gel. I think most of the guys played at a particular level so they understand the game.
“So far, the guys are taking everything on board what I’m asking them to do. They’re doing that pretty well. I think that’s one of our main assets, in that short space of time.”
John took over as the team coach in September, after the resignation of his ex-national teammate Dale Saunders.
But he is well aware of arguably his biggest test in his fledgling coaching career.
“Last season, (with) Dale, we worked together pretty well,” said John, who is also the assistant coach of the T&T men’s team. “It’s up to me now to take the challenge and move things up to a next level. I’m a young (coach), I think I still have a lot to learn in the game. I’m relishing the opportunity. The guys are respecting the staff really well and that’s what we’ve asked of them.”
Asked how he was able to attract so many players to a club who endured a rough 2017 season, John replied, “For me, personally, I spoke to some of the guys individually, I asked them to come and play for us. We were hoping to get a sponsor and eventually one came through. I think we have a professional environment here, we look after the boys. We need to thank Hydro Tech for coming on board and putting their money where their mouth is.”
Official Hydrotech Central FC Roster for the 2018 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship:
1. Javon Sample, 30. Montel Joseph.
3. Tyrik John, 5. Carlyle Mitchell (capt), 12. Taryk Sampson, 15. Kaydion Gabriel, 17. Anthony Wolfe, 22. Jameel Neptune, 26. Trevin Latapy.
7. Saleem Henry, 9. Tyrone Charles, 10. Keron Cummings, 11. Darren Mitchell, 13. Rhondel Gibson, 18. Densill Theobald (v-capt), 24. Jules Lee, 27. Nathan Lewis, 29. Jesse Joseph.
8. Cornell Glen, 19. Jason Marcano.
Stern John - Head Coach
Walt Noriega - Assistant Coach
Saron Joseph - Trainer/Physio
Esmond Obrien - Equipment Manager
Denise Govia - Team Manager
2018 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship - Group B Schedule:
Wednesday 7 February 2018
18:00 Central FC (TRI) vs Portmore United FC (JAM)
21:00 Atlantico FC (DOM) vs Racing FC (HAI)
Friday 9 February 2018
18:00 Racing FC (HAI) vs Central FC (TRI)
21:00 Atlantico FC (DOM) vs Portmore United FC (JAM)
Sunday 11 February 2018
18:00 Portmore United FC (JAM) vs Racing FC (HAI)
21:00 Atlantico FC (DOM) vs Central FC (TRI)
*All matches will be played at the Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.