Former T&T Defence Force Staff Sergeant Ross Russell will be unveiled as the new coach of reigning Digicel T&T Pro League and Caribbean Football Union Club champions, Central FC, as soon as he returns home from the 28th Pan American Games in Canada, where he coached the Women Soca Warriors.
This was confirmed by the club’s newly-appointed Football Operations manager, former national defender and captain Anthony Rougier, yesterday.
And Russell will have little time to relax as his first major assignment will be the 2015/2015 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, which kicks off in two weeks time, with Central FC set to debut against US Major League Soccer Cup champions LA Galaxy and Guatemalan champions CSD Comunicaciones in Group D.
Central FC will play its first match of the three-team home-and-away round-robin group against LA Galaxy on August 6 and will more than likely face a star-studded line-up inclusive of former England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerard, Ireland striker Robbie Keane, and Mexico’s Giovani Dos Santos, who signed for the club last week from Spanish La Liga side Villarreal.
Commenting on the appointment, Rougier, who first noted that he was brought on board because of former Operations Manager, Kevin Harrison and Minister of Sports, Brent Sancho, the former club co-owner, political commitments, said all that was waiting on was for Russell to put pen to paper on his contract when he returns from Canada.
He added: “We have been in discussion with him (Russell) for a while and things are now in place for him to take up his position. But in the meantime, assistant coach Saunders, who served under Vranes and Fenwick, has been conducting the sessions as we are preparing to face LA Galaxy, and at the moment we have close to 22 players in training.
“We are also in discussions with a few other players with a view to strengthening our squad. But we cannot reveal their names at the moment, because they are attached to other clubs, however, we are confident we should be ready by August 6,” stated Rougier, a former England-based player and manager of the now defunct South End FC.
Russell’s tenure with the T&T Defence Force, which falls under the Ministry of National Security, came to an end after 26 years, prior to December 18, 2014, when the Staff Sergeant reached his 47th birthday—the retirement age based on his last rank—two days after his last match in charge, which ended in a 1–1 draw with Point Fortin Civic.
This meant, he was unable to serve the Army-Coast Guard combination as coach of its Digicel T&T Pro League football team or in any official position.
Only if Russell, the most successful coach of the Defence Force football set-up in recent years, was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer would he have been able to serve the TTDF and its top-flight football team for three more years—something Russell has been very optimistic about over the past year.
In his absence, close friend, 36-year-old Lance Corporal Marvin Gordon, served as coach, while another former player, Anton Joseph, was his assistant.
Russell’s successes as coach of Defence Force’s top-flight team included winning two (Digicel) Pro League championships (2010-2011 and 2012-2013), the First Citizens Cup (2009) and the Digicel Pro Bowl (2012) during his spell, which began in 2009.
Central FC on the other hand, began the season under former T&T coach Zoran Vranes and retained the First Citizens Cup, after Englishman Terry Fenwick quit the post for greener pastures in the Belgium Third tier with CS Vise, where local players Willis Plaza, Rundell Winchester, Elton John and Kevon Villaroel subsequently followed.
With the club sitting nicely at the top of the Pro League table and two trophies already won, Vranes was surprisingly replaced by the returning Fenwick, and elevated to the position of Technical Director.
The move to bring back Fenwick worked wonders as he went on to add the Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies for winning the remaining two rounds in the league, the Pro League title and the Digicel Pro Bowl, before capturing a first ever CFU Club Championship title.
However, at the end of last season, Fenwick along with a number of players saw their contracts with the club expire while there were also issues over bonus payments for tournaments won.
Central FC’s Concacaf Champions League
August 6: LA Galaxy (USA) vs Central FC
August 27: CD Comunicaciones (GUA) vs Central FC
September 17: Central FC vs CD Comunicaciones (GUA)
September 23: Central FC vs LA Galaxy (USA)