Directv North East Stars overcame a good test againt Superleague outfit Eagles United on Saturday to stake their claim for the 2012 Pro League title, due to commence in 2 weeks time.
The Sangre Grande based club arrived with a high level of preperation and determination and despite not yet having played a competetive match, surprised the Chaguanas based Eagles with their intensity direct from kick off. It took only 2 minutes for Kevaughan Connell to head home a Stern John flick from a corner kick. And the Stars lead was doubled after 25 mins when Kevin Jagdeosingh converted another Stern John assist.
Eagles United continued with a good solid performance, but were unable to convert their chances on a well prepared Woodford Lodge surface. The second half saw more North East chances, with Akiel Guevera smashing a shot against an upright, and a sublime Stern John lob was pushed onto the post by the Eagles keeper, after some superb control by John, who collected the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box, surrounded by Eagles defenders.
Indeed, John's performance was good news for National Coach, Otto Pfister, with many of the Stars best chances eminating from the National teams all time highest goalscorer. Late in the game saw the best move of the match when Stephen Cruickshanks beautiful first touch found John who played a slide rule one-two into the path of the sprinting Cruickshank, who converted with confidence, only to be ruled offside. Cruickshank, too, will be a welcome sight to Mr Pfister after his two year self-imposed hiatus from football.
Although the game descended into the usual friendly format of rolling substitutions and realigned formations, the game was played at a good pace with many competetive tackles and with both teams eager to prove points. Indeed, Eagles next opposition will need to beware, as they raised their game to new levels against the Stars and will carry that mentality into their next match.
North East Stars Head Coach, Shurland David said "Our preseason build up saw us aim for 13th of August as our final game before the commencement of the Pro League on the 19th August. However, as we know, the date has been pushed back until the 26th. But what we saw today was our strongest team, with the exception of 4 missing players."
Anthony Wolfe, Gary Glasgow and Leon Gordon were left out due to slight injury concerns, while Seon Powers was excused to attend a family emergency. "I was delighted by the teams performance tonight" said David "We are ready, the players know what is expected of them by management and supporters. Their Road to Brazil starts right here"
Indeed, 2014 is on the minds of everyone at North East Stars. President, Daryll Mahabir said "This is the best prepared North East Stars team I've ever seen. Its not just their fitness, but their agility, pace and upper body strength. Shurland has done a fantastic job and I believe we can achieve our target of Pro League champions this season." But Mahabir also has another target.
"I want at least 5 North East players on the National squad. We have a duty to provide Mr Pfister with the raw materiels to do his job, and I am determined that we will not shirk that responsibility. Yes, we need some overseas players, you can never underestimate the experience gleaned from football in the worlds great leagues, but we also need a strong local contingent to promote local football."
Former WC defender Brent Sancho said "The players have really worked hard in preseason, and the preperation shows. I am delighted to see how well Stephen Cruickshank is playing. He's missed a lot of football, but I was determined to bring him to North East. I played against him in the States and have always admired him" said the North East CEO.
"He adds a new dimension and I expect him to be knocking on Mr Pfisters door to add to his 4 senior caps" Sancho also commented on the performance of Kevaughan Connell "Kevaughan is simply the most exciting left back in Trinidad" said Sancho. "When he collects the ball going forward, you always feel he will make something happen. As a former striker, he can run with the ball, cut inside and unleash a shot from distance, or use his pace to hit the base line and cross into the box. He's definately one for Mr Pfister to watch."
Director of Football, Kevin Jeffery said the players levels of fitness are extremely high. "Players like Marc Leslie say they have never begun a season this well prepared. Thanks to fitness coach, Gregory Seale, the squads beep test performances are better than the 2006 World Cup squads.
This means that the players can achieve more without forcing themselves into positions. Everything is achieved at a higher pace with greater ease. As a player, once you feel this fit, your confidence soars and everything from your first touch to finishing comes easier. Our new players such as Ishmael Daniel, Stephen Cruickshank, Seon Powers and Jaggy (Kevin Jagdeosingh) have slotted in nicely, and of course, its great to have Stern training with us. His experience is a priceless addition to the team."
Coach David said North East will be playing a couple of more friendly matches before their opening Pro League match against Quenns Park F.C. on Saturday 27th August at Hasely Crawford Stadium. He said the 6pm kick off is perfect for North East supporters. "We are hoping for a big crowd, even though its a long trip for our Grande based supporters. It will be the first game for the new Terry Fenwick outfit, so interest will be high."
North East Stars will be calling on their fans in the West, East and Central to ensure they continue the Stars reputation as the Pro Leagues best supported club. And there may still be some further surprises in the teams line up. "We are still talking to several overseas players, as we will always look to strengthen the squad" said David.
DIRECTV North East Stars: Andrew Durant (GK), Charles Pollard, Glenton Wolfe, Marc Leslie, Kevaughan Connell, Kendall Velox, Keryn Navarro, Kevin Jagdeosingh, Kaydion Gabriel, Stern John, Akiel Guevera.
Subs used: Jeromie Williams, Stephen Cruickshank, Ishmael Daniel.