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Central, W Connection kick-off Pro League.

Already half-way through their 2015/2016 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League campaigns, reigning Caribbean Football Union Club Championship and T&T Pro League champions, Central FC and DirecTV W Connection will face off in the Pro League curtain raiser, the Digicel Charity Shield on Friday at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva from 7 pm.

W Connection, under the guidance of long-standing coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, has won the title in each of the previous three years while recently installed Central FC coach Ross Russell will have a third try, but his first with the Couva Sharks, having tasted defeat twice as coach of his previous team Defence Force.

The Charity Shield pits together the Digicel Pro League and Digicel Pro Bowl winners of the previous season but both competitions were won by Central hence W Connection, the league runners-up, provide the opponents. The winning team will receive $10,000 to be donated to a charitable cause of choice.

In 2012 and 2013, the St Lucian-born Charles-Fevrier guided the Savonetta Boys to 2-0 and 4-2 victories, respectively, over Defence Force, led by Russell back then, to win the Charity Shield. Then in 2014, W Connection retained the title for a third consecutive time by edging rivals Central FC 1-0 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

“We definitely put value on the Charity Shield as it is among every title want to win,” said Charles-Fevrier, a former T&T senior national men’s team coach. “It (Charity Shield) is important to us because it sets the tone for the season. It’s an opportunity to win something before the season starts and to help build confidence.”

Last season (2014/2015), the Charity Shield stood the only accolade for Connection while bitter town rivals Central went on to set a milestone. The Couva Sharks, a three-year-old club, won seven titles, among them the Digicel Pro League championship and Caribbean Club Championship.

Serbia-born coach Zoran Vraneš led Central from the start, winning each round of the Pro League to take the inaugural Rawle Fletcher, Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies, and in the mix, the First Citizens Cup before he was surprisingly replaced near the end of the season.

His replacement, Englishman Terry Fenwick, picked up where Vraneš left off, to guide the Couva Sharks over the finish line to win the League crown ahead of Connection, the defending champion having to settle for second.

W Connection also had to settle for second in the final of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship when Central gloated as Caribbean champions, with a 2-1 victory on May 24 at the same Couva venue.

Taunting its rival even more, Central completed the domestic season by hoisting the Digicel Pro Bowl after defeating Police FC in the final to win the title that was previously held by Connection and was one of five titles the Savonetta Boys celebrated in 2013/2014.

Russell, who only picked up duties as Central FC’s new head coach one month ago, said, “Central had a good record against Connection last season and I hope to continue that edge from the start [with the Charity Shield].”

Both Central and W Connection are currently active in the 2015/2016 Concacaf Champions League and are two losses from two appearances in their respective Group matches against opponents that are well into their domestic season. In their two Pool D matches, Central has gone under to Commucaciones (1-0) and LA Galaxy (5-1) while W Connection, was beaten 4-0 by both Santos Laguna and Deportivo Saprisso, with both T&T clubs playing their remaining two matches at home from next week. 

“The Charity Shield game will be competitive,” predicts Charles-Fevrier. “Both teams want to win and it. The local season hasn’t started but we are pleased that we were able to get a couple competitive matches in the Champions League ahead of the Charity Shield.”