As part of its ambition to return to the TT Pro League as one of the most competitive clubs, San Juan Jabloteh have acquired the services of former standout and 2009 TT Pro League/Toyota Player of the Year, Kerry Baptiste.
Baptiste, famed by his record 48 goals in 2009 that helped then club Joe Public to a record haul of five titles in a single season, was signed by Jabloteh for an undisclosed fee from North East Stars on Monday—the transfer deadline date.
But scoring goals isn’t the main responsibility of the 31 year-old former Trinidad and Tobago Under 20, Under 23 and senior team footballer.
“He (Baptiste) will be our marquee player, but he really comes in like the coach on the playing field,” said debuting Jabloteh Head Coach Keith Jeffrey.
“The younger players will be able to feed off his experience. If you look around at the numbers we have, guys like Kerry Baptiste, (former W Connection and Central FC midfielder) Rennie Britto and (former North East Stars player) Shane Hospidales are the experienced guys.”
Jeffrey, a former Jabloteh footballer and youth team coach, said he was able to acquire a good mixture of youth and experience, youth being the predominant, despite the club’s late entry for the 2013-2014season.
The Jabloteh coach said that his ambition, as well as the ambition of the club, is to show that although the club has a very young team, it can compete against the likes of “the big clubs” W Connection, North East Stars and Caledonia.
Jeffrey also said that he is honoured by the decision of the club, which was last coached by former T&T international Earl Carter before taking a one-year hiatus last season, to have a former player and resident of San Juan as its new head coach.
Jabloteh, which received a Round One Match Day One bye in the 2013-2014 Digicel Pro League championship, will have its first test on Friday against St. Ann's Rangers from 6pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Match Day Two.
Rangers, with another debuting head coach, Gilbert Bateau, were hammered 7-0 by DIRECTV W Connection last weekend at the very same Port of Spain venue.
Jeffrey’s signings includes goalkeepers Kevin Dodds (Malabar FC), Keston Malchan (Harlem Strikers) and Jesse Peters (St. Ann’s Rangers); defenders Jevon Morris (Police FC), Dario Holmes (Central FC), Dillon Kirton (WASA FC), Keino Goodridge (Joe Public), Nyron Jones (Carib FC), Kevin Figaro (North East Stars Reserves), Alfie James (St. Ann’s Rangers), Shane Hospidales (Malabar FC), Trevon Lester (Cantaro United) and Le Kion Elie (Westside Superstarz); midfielders Rennie Britto (Central FC) Jamal Spencer (Cunupia), Akil Thomas (WASA FC), Savion Kirton (Barataria Ball Players), Jelani Felix (Central FC Reserves), Kerry Mitchell (Football Factory), Kerry Daniel (Cantaro United) and Kevon Piper (Westside Superstarz); forwards Lemuel Lyons (Club Sando), Shaquille Bertrand (North East Stars Reserves), Anthony Guppy (Cantaro United), Darryl Mark (Defence Force / Super League) and Kerry Baptiste (North East Stars).
“A lot of the teams are going for younger players,” added Jeffrey. “It’s the trend of the Pro League and leagues around the world. Younger players are hungrier for the game and you can get them blend into the philosophy of what you want in your team. They are easier to manage while the older ones come with a lot of negatives.”
And while it’s no secret that Baptiste has lost his scoring form since the 2009 record haul, Jeffrey is concentrating more on his attacking system of play which he believes can produce the goals from any player.
“What is more important is that we have a good attacking midfield that can score goals,” he said. “The goals will come from all areas because of the way we play. Our first line of defense is our offence.”
Baptiste, who began his professional career at Jabloteh (2003-2006) before joining Joe Public (2007-2010), had unsuccessful trials with English Championship club Ipswich Town (December 2009) and Major League Soccer clubs Toronto FC (May 2010) and Seattle Sounders FC (2011) before agreeing to a short term deal with North American Soccer League side FC Tampa Bay in July 2011. The midfielder-turned-forward returned to Trinidad joining the now defunct T&TEC in January 2012 for a short stint before he was snapped up by North East Stars head coach Angus Eve last season.
2013-2014 Digicel Pro League
Round One Match Day Two fixtures
Friday 20 September 2013
Hasely Crawford Stadium
San Juan Jabloteh vs St. Ann’s Rangers—6pm
North East Stars vs Point Fortin Civic FC—8pm
Saturday 21 September 2013
Ato Boldon Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—5pm
Central FC vs Caledonia AIA—7pm