After two years of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Secondary Schools Football League action resumed in September and while the standard of play could have been better, some of the coaches in the league are confident it will improve significantly next year.
The Express spoke to coaches Randolph Boyce (St Benedict’s College), Hutson Charles (Fatima College), Jerry Moe (San Juan North Secondary) and Dwayne Davis (Trinity College East) coach and they all agreed that the standard of play was inconsistent with some teams doing well and others struggling badly.
Fatima College won the National InterCol title; St Benedict’s the National League title; San Juan North topped Group B in the Premier Division competition while Trinity East placed third.
“To be honest, some of the standard of play was high, some was medium and some was average and a lot of work needs to be done still,” Boyce told the Express.
“Coming back from Covid when players were inactive and development didn’t take place with a lot of kids, we saw (during the league) that some were hampered in terms of adjusting and adapting at a faster pace than other kids. So we are in a situation where we might need to go on a development drive,” he added.
Losing two seasons of schools football also forced teams to use younger players on their roster which Boyce said would have helped their development for next season but at the same time would have put them at a disadvantage in the current season.
“When you look at the league, some of the teams fielded U-16, U-15 and even U-14 players in certain instances and you have to remember that the league is an Under-20 league, so there would have been a big gap in some areas in some schools and that would have put them at a disadvantage in terms of the competitiveness against the other schools who would have had more mature and developed players.
“But definitely next year God willing, I hope to see a better developed league in terms of players, coaches and organisation and better planning and preparation time. This year some teams would have rushed down certain things and would have lost players as well and would have had to work with what they have. I am hoping to see a lot of improvement in a lot of areas.”
Charles agreed that some teams were better prepared than others leading to some lop-sided games in the top flight.
“I think when you look at the league, you can see only a handful of teams that were organised. The majority of the teams were not fully prepared hence the reason you would have seen some ridiculous score lines. I think I will probably blame it on the pandemic and the teams did not get time to prepare and some of them started late to prepare. The results some of those teams got were because their preparations were not up to par,” he said.
Next year he expects a more balanced competition.
“Now that the teams have started back playing, they will have enough time to prepare for next year, so I think we will see a more balanced level of play between teams and the competition will be a lot harder as well,” Charles explained.
Full schedule next season
The former national player and national team coach is also looking forward to a full schedule of Premier Division matches next season.
“I think the change in format back to the full league instead of the two groups will be the better way to go. With the two groups, teams could not afford to slip up because there really are not enough games to catch up, so I expect the games to be a lot more competitive next year,” he added.
As for Fatima’s performance this year, Charles described it as “remarkable” given the fact that they only came back into the top flight in 2019.
“It was an unbelievable season,” he said. “We got relegated and I brought them back up in 2019 and then the pandemic hit so what we did this year in terms of finishing second in the league and winning the North Zone and National InterCol, I think it has been a really remarkable season for Fatima College.” Meanwhile, Moe said although it was inconsistent, the standard of play was higher than he expected coming out of the pandemic.
“From that standpoint, a lot of the teams tried to play organised football and fellas on the teams tried to be disciplined on the field as much as possible ...The standard of play was better than I expected,” Moe added.
“In terms of San Juan North and a lot of the other teams, coming out of Covid, they would have had to reshuffle. There were a lot of young guys and you didn’t have the continuity from last year or the year before because there was no football. For everyone it was a new season and I think a lot of the teams adapted well, unfortunately some teams had to be demoted,” he pointed out.
In terms of next season, Moe is hoping to see a lot of improvement.
“I would hope the standard of play will improve next year because all the teams had a lot of 15-year-old and 16-year-old players on the roster and with the experience they would have gained this year, hopefully they will be in good stead and they will know what to expect next season and they will have a certain level of confidence knowing that they would have played this year. So I think we will see a better end product from the teams next season,” he explained.
The veteran coach added:“I have been looking at the qualifiers with Arima North and St Mary’s and the Tobago Zone, so the competition is going to be good with the new teams coming in. It makes for good competition.”
For Davis, the standard of play was “okay.”
He said one of the issues faced was the lack of proper grounds to train on, while the excessive rain didn’t help the situation.
However, Davis didn’t see anything out of the ordinary throughout the season despite a few players standing out in the early part of the competition.
“I think some of the teams were even because coming out of Covid some of the teams would not have been able to do the level of drafting that they would normally do because there was no football for two years,” he also noted.
“Next year, I expect to see some of the traditional teams go back to their drafting policies and strengthen up and that could work two ways, where it could raise the standards in some teams but it could also deplete others,” he added.
“What I would hope to see is some sort of restriction on the amount of transfers but I don’t think everyone may share that view.”
Davis also felt that this season, “the officiating was a bit inconsistent as well, so that is another area that can improve in terms of the use of technology to assist the referees,” Davis concluded.
SOURCE: T&T Express