After thirteen years of trophy-less Pro League seasons, Derek King finally gave North East Stars something to shine about when they were crowned the Trinidad and Tobago 2017 Pro League Champions.
Obviously, North East Stars (Stars) did win a few minor tournaments in-between those thirteen years but there is no greater feeling than winning silverware in T&T's top flight league.
Winning trophies in the local league is nothing new for Stars head coach Derek King though. Back in 2009 while coaching Joe Public FC (Eastern Lions), King racked up quite a few medals when he guided Joe Public to five titles including; the FA Trophy Champions, the Digicel Pro Bowl crown, the Toyota Classic, the Big Six and to top things off, the Pro League. It was more silverware than any club had previously gathered in a single season. For his accomplishment, he was named 2009 T&T Pro League Coach of the Year.
Ironically, in the following season North East Stars were the ones that literally cost Derek King his job as head coach of Joe Public. The Eastern Lions needed a win against Stars in their last league game to finish second but could only muster up a 1-1 draw. Not only did King's men failed to defend the title, but they also failed to qualify for CFU Club Championship and a chance to go further and compete in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. As a result, King was reduced in rank from Head Coach to assistant Coach. Rajesh Latchoo, assistant coach to King, was promoted to interim Head Coach.
King was part of the Trinidad and Tobago coaching staff under former head coach Stephen Hart that steered the Soca Warriors back to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013. Hart was terminated by the TTFA earlier this year along with his two assistants (King and Hutson Charles).
After a six-year absence in the league, King has found new life once more and is loving every moment of it. Only his first year back and he has already won the TT Pro League title.
1. Congrats from SWO on your latest achievements with NE Stars. Now that you have qualified for next season’s Caribbean Club Championship will you be making anymore signings as depth is very important and how are you planning to prepare for it, maybe an overseas tournament or camp?
DK. Thanks you. We need are on the verge of talking to a couple of players to add to the current squad. I will be meeting with my boss Darryl Mahabir and Ryan Nunez after our last league game on Tuesday to discuss preparation for next season.
2. Back in 2004 North East Stars had qualified for the CONCACAF Champion League but pulled out because of financial troubles. What are the Club trying to do to prevent this from happening again?
DK. Darryl Mahabir are currently in discussion with Ryan Nunez to assist in the club day to day affairs.
3. I've notice that North East Stars have a fully locally born team (correct me if I am wrong), is this part of your philosophy and what sort of youth development the Club offers for future T&T players.
DK. We have one foreign player Guyanese goalkeeper Akel Clarke. The rest of the team is local base players. My goal for next season is to bring in some top young local base players to add with the experience ones we have. It will help with our development both club and country by taking part in CFU and Concacaf.
4. If you had to pick 23 of the best players in the league, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders, 4 forwards and 3 keepers, who would they be.
3 Goalkeepers - 1. Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic), 2. Glenroy Samuel (Morvant Caledonia United), 3. Adrian Foncette (Police FC).
8 Defenders - 1. Yohance Marshall (North East Stars), 2. Keston George (North East Stars), 3. Jameel Neptune (North East Stars), 4. Shane Sandy (St. Ann’s Rangers), 5. Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), 6. Tyrik Sampson (Central FC), 7.Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando), 8. Triston Hodge (W Connection).
8 Midfielders - 1. Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), 2. Densill Theobald (North East Stars), 3. Kevon Goddard (North East Stars), 4, Neil Benjamin Jr. (W Connection), 5. Elton John (North East Stars), 6. Nathaniel Garcia (Point Fortin Civic), 7. Kathon St Hillaire (St. Ann’s Rangers), 8. Duane Muckette (North East Stars).
4 Forwards -1. Marcus Joseph (W Connection), 2. Rundell Winchester (North East Stars), 3. Akim Armstrong (Club Sando), 4. Sheldon Holder (Morvant Caledonia United).
5. Now that CONCACAF is threatening to close down the Leagues in the Caribbean if Clubs don't comply with certain requirement. Is North East Stars administration taking this serious?
DK. North East Stars is one of the club comply with their requirements.
6. Obviously, NE Stars doesn't have the finances Joe Public had when you were there winning all those titles in 2009, as we've noticed that Stars were knocked out from all the other tournaments. Given this fact, would you say winning the 2017 title with NE Stars your sweetest (not biggest) achievement, and how hard was it to accomplished this. Furthermore, you've signed some top players (Rundell Winchester, Keston George, Kevon Goddard and Akeem Garcia) and older players that has a lot of experience and could have still played aboard like Yohance Marshall and Julius James. Was it hard to convince these players to join your team?
DK. The league title was always first on our agenda for this year. Every club want to win the league. It was a great achievement for the club. I being back in the league after a few years was also great for me as a young coach. What I did this year with the FCB and FA Cups was to give some of my players playing time. We don't have a reserve league so you have to find time to assist the young players. It was tough because of the number of breaks during the season. You have to find ways to keep your players physically and mentally prepared.
I won the title when I was 29 years [at Joe Public] and now I am 37. So I am in the books twice as the the youngest coach to win the Pro League and the second youngest to win it. I still consider myself a young coach and I’m just trying to get better every day.
It was easy convincing these players because a lot of them worked with me before. I had Akeem Garcia, Duane Muckette, Kevon Goddard, Kishon Seecharan and Jomoul Francios with the National Under 20 Team. Yohance Marshall and Densill Thoebald worked with me at the Senior level. I get along with my players and always try to get the best out of them.
Pro League titles (by coach)
5—Stuart Charles-Fevrier (W Connection),
4—Terry Fenwick (San Juan Jabloteh  and Central FC ),
2—Dale Saunders (Central FC), Ross Russell (Defence Force), Derek King (Joe Public  and North East Stars ),
1—Errol McFarlane (Defence Force), Michael McComie (Joe Public), James McLean (North East Stars), Ricky Hill (San Juan Jabloteh).