Wed, Aug


Defence Force head coach Russell Russell will lead his battalion to war on Friday against Central FC in the Final of the 2013 First Citizens Cup from 8pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. The mission: To lift the title that is very close to their hearts.

The enemy meanwhile, is attempting to lift its first ever title, and is led by three-time Pro League winning coach and former England international, Terry Fenwick.

The $100,000 winners’ cash prize can be very important to both clubs, but the crystal-designed trophy will hold much more significance in either club’s trophy cabinet.

“Show me the money!” exclaimed a laughing Fenwick who quickly retracted. “The trophy of course, will be more important as the inaugural trophy in our club’s history. The money will also be welcomed … it might help me get one or two players in the next transfer window.”

As for his opponent, it was the First Citizens Cup that Russell first won, when he took over the coaching reigns from Kerry Jamerson in 2009. And prior to that, it was the last title that the soldiers won, back in 2002.

Russell is the Army’s most successful coach in recent years, guiding Defence Force to a title in every season since taking up the post—First Citizens Cup (2009), Digicel Pro League championship (2010/11), Digicel Pro Bowl (2011/12) and the Digicel Pro League championship (2012/13).

“The First Citizens Cup is always a special to me,” Russell told on Thursday. “It’s the first title I won in my first season as head coach of Defence Force, and the first in my cabinet, to say, at this level. It was the hardest title to win as well, as the club hadn’t won a title before that in many years. To win it again on Friday would be an honour.”

Dependable forward Devorn Jorsling, speedy winger Kevon Carter, creative midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar, veterans Kerry Joseph and Keston Williams, goalkeeper Kevin Graham, team captain Corey Rivers are all likely starters on Friday. Trinidad and Tobago defensive midfielder Curtis Gonzales, defenders Rodell Elcock and Aklie Edwards, winger Jemel Sebro and attacking midfielder Josimar Belgrave are also possible starters.

“I’d play a winning team,” added the Defence Force coach. “A more attacking team and a little more speed in the game.”

He said that Jorsling, Carter and Aklie Edwards have all shown improved fitness over the last few days and his team’s and urged people to “come out and support local football”.

The former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper added, “I think we play well, and so does Central, so it’s going to be a really good Final.”

Defence Force’s journey to this season’s First Citizens Cup Final included ousting two-time defending champions Caledonia AIA, with a neat Marvin Jones flick for a 1-0 win in the quarter-final round, and getting past San Juan Jabloteh 4-3 on penalties in the semi-final round after rescued by an extra-time Jorsling item for a 2-2 tie.

But the soldiers have been disappointing after two league matches, beaten 3-1 by Central in Round One Match Day One of the Digicel Pro League, and are coming off a 3-1 loss to North East Stars last week.

“It will more boost us, knowing that they (Central) have one against us,” said Russell. “Our guys will take it more serious this time. We are the champions of the Pro League and we want to show that in the First Citizens Cup.”

Fenwick told this week, “We can’t underestimate Defence Force. We have beaten them already this season, but this is an entirely new situation. They are a very good footballing team and Ross Russell has been doing a lot of good things with the team over the years. They also have the experience of the Concacaf Champions League.

“But on Friday it’s a good opportunity for us to win our club’s inaugural title,” continued the former San Juan Jabloteh coach. “It’s obviously what we are trying to achieve.”

In January of this year, Fenwick took over the coaching position left vacant by fellow countryman and former Arsenal footballer, Graham Rix, a month earlier, and during his charge for the remainder of last season, he led the club to the FA Trophy final, but suffered a slim 1-0 defeat against Caledonia AIA. Fenwick also finished the ‘Sharks” in a creditable fifth position their debut Digicel Pro League season.

This season Central are unbeaten thus far, and currently sits fourth on the league standings with 4 points from two matches, while defending champions Defence Force occupy eight position without a point.

Central journeyed to the Final of the First Citizens Cup after by defeating rivals North East Stars 2-1 in the quarter-final round with stunning strikes by Hector Sam and Rundell Winchester and defeating bitter town-rivals, DIRECTV W Connection, 3-2 on penalties following a goalless draw in the semi-final round with 10 men, all after losing team captain and midfielder Jason Marcano to a red card for obscene language in the 13th minute.

“Jason is an excellent player and it’s very unfortunate not to have him in the Final,” Fenwick said. “He was unfairly dealt with by the referee and he will be missed. We’ve had to reshape our team but that’s ok.”

The suspended Marcano will watch from the stands, while teammate Winchester is fresh from his cameo debut appearance in the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Senior Team last Tuesday in a 0-0 draw against New Zealand, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

With attackers Winchester, Dwight Quintero and Sam; defenders Jamal Jack, Akeem Benjamin, Elton John and Keon Goodridge; midfielders Johan Peltier, Marvin Oliver and Darren Mitchell, and goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams are all available to Fenwick.

Last season Central, under Rix’s charge, were ousted in the quarter-final round of the First Citizens Cup, 3-0, by Defence Force. Defence Force progressed further by defeating St. Ann’s Rangers 2-1 in the semi-final round, but fell 2-1 against Caledonia AIA in the Final.

“The squad that I’ve put together, and still looking to add one or two, is a squad of good footballers … specialized players in all areas. We are unbeaten this season and we want to keep that focus and maintain that consistency,” concluded Fenwick.