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Defence Force head coach Ross Russell said he is in full support of assistant coach Marvin Gordon taking over as his successor when the time comes.

At present Russell, a 46-year-old Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) Staff Sergeant, remains with just over two months in the job, and is required to leave the Defence Force before his 47th birthday on December 18, unless, between now and then, he is promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2, which will enable him to serve three more years at the TTDF and coach of the “Tetron Boys”.

Russell is presently on sick leave, which expires on Monday, after suffering a mild stroke on August 12. He is expected to return to army and coaching duties from Tuesday.

“I’m remaining optimistic in terms of promotion” said Russell, who added that he has been declared fit to return to duty.

At West Shore Medical in Cocorite, where he admitted himself on the morning of August 12 after feeling “weakness about the body and numbness on the entire left side”, Russell underwent numerous tests and scans, and began physical therapy, before he was released nearly two weeks later.

While hospitalised, former T&T football stars Stern John, Ancil Elcock and Arnold Dwarika were among Russell’s visitors. Even Dennis Lawrence, development coach at English Premier League club Everton, phoned in support.

Meanwhile Marvin Gordon, Russell’s first assistant and understudy at the top level since 2009, has been preparing the Pro League team since the time of Russell’s health scare, and last weekend plucked a late 1-0 win over North East Stars in their opening match of the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League championship.

Forward Richard Roy was used off the bench and converted a penalty in stoppage time for the soldiers.

Russell, who attended the match at the Larry Gomes Stadium but didn't stand in as part of the technical staff, said, “The team is now starting to gel. We saw first game jitters on Saturday but I have to say the players were well prepared. The game was well battled and when you get a first game as hard as that (against North East Stars), there will be jitters. Our players are now dusting off the long break.”

The former T&T and Defence Force goalkeeper added, “Marvin has done a fantastic job and I’m one hundred percent in support of Marvin taking over when that time comes.”

Russell has been the most successful Defence Force coach in recent years, winning two Pro League titles (2010-2011 & 2012-2013), the First Citizens Cup (2009) and the Digicel Pro Bowl (2012) during his spell.

Last season was trophy-less for the Defence Force football team but more so a traumatic 2013-2014 as 30-year-old club and T&T winger Kevon Carter died of a heart attack on 28 February 2014, and two months earlier defender Rawle Fletcher was murdered in his hometown, Couva.

Prior to his health scare, Russell, a former T&T Senior Team assistant coach, served the T&T Under-17 team, in a dual role as assistant coach and goalkeeper coach.

Gordon, a 36-year-old Lance Corporal with the TTDF, said, “The relationship between Ross and I is close. It is a friendship and we work really well as a team. I will enjoy if Ross is promoted to be here three more years with me. The players and I are keeping our fingers crossed that it does happen for him and he remains part of us. He has done a lot of service to the country and Defence Force so we are hoping that the powers above honour him by allowing him to continue to serve.”

Defence Force, under the care of Gordon and second assistant coach Anton Joseph, will go up against Police FC from 8 pm on Friday at the Marvin Lee Stadium, in the second match of a Digicel Pro League Round One Match Day Two double header.

Earlier at the Macoya venue, San Juan Jabloteh and St. Ann’s Rangers will do battle from 6 pm.

And on Saturday North East Stars will visit Point Fortin Civic from 3.30 pm at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin.