Stern John has renewed his commitment to Central FC with his target, his maiden trophy as head coach in the form of the 2018 Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship, the qualifier tournament to the Concacaf Champions League and Concacaf League.
Central, back-to-back Caribbean champions of 2015 and 2016, are set to travel to the Dominican Republic on Sunday where they must face Jamaica’s Portmore United (Feb. 7), Haiti’s Racing FC (Feb. 9) and hosts Atlantico (Feb. 11) in Group B.
The top two teams will advance to the Caribbean final round in May where they will compete with the top two teams of Group A currently being contested in Trinidad. Hosts W Connection are bottom of the group after losing 1-0 to Haiti’s Real Hope Academy (3 points), while Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens and Dominican Republic’s Atletico Pantoja are tied on a point after their goalless draw on Wednesday’s opening night. All four clubs return to action on Friday.
Central will unveil their 20-man squad for the trip to the Dominican Republic on Friday and could include former Trinidad and Tobago standouts such as Carlyle Mitchell and Densill Theobald as well as the return of midfielders Darren Mitchell and Keron Cummings.
And through the financial support of companies such as Guayaguayare-based Hydro Tech and Lollabee Group, the Couva Sharksbelieve the shot at lifting a third Caribbean crown is attainable.
“We want to win,” John told reporters during a brief media presentation to unveil Lollabee Group as a part sponsor of Central’s 2018 Caribbean campaign. “I think the team we have put together [capable] of the task.”
John, also an assistant coach with the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team, took over as head coach of the struggling Couva Sharks last September – midway through the 2017 season – after serving as an assistant to Dale Saunders who left due to financial woes faced by the club.
Months earlier, battling through their financial struggles the Couva Sharks had finished fourth at the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship which was won by debutants Cibao FC of Dominican Republic. San Juan Jabloteh finished runners-up losing 1-0 in the final after Jamaica’s Portmore United secured a third-place finish against Central.
Saunders’ later departure had followed an exodus of players and staff and by the end of the 2017 campaign, the Couva Sharks — a side that had previously won three consecutive Pro League championships — finished second-from-bottom on the ten-team domestic table.
Central FC’s managing director Brent Sancho reiterated that all clubs in the Pro League had been affected by the lack of financial support and that the two-time Caribbean champions weren't immune to the current economic climate.
“Stern had a real baptism of fire last season when he stepped up to take his first head coach position,” said Sancho.
Sancho, a teammate of John at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, explained, “The lack of resources left Stern with very little to choose from when selecting his team [last season].
“[Now] Stern [has showed] his loyalty to those who played through (last season’s) difficult time by offering opportunities to 90 percent of last year’s squad and staff. Those players will [now] be supplemented by some very talented and experienced players. As in 2016, when we won our second Caribbean Club Championship, we are aiming for a 100 percent Trini’ squad – at least for the trip to Dominican Republic.”
“It’s a little better (now),” agreed John, T&T’s all-time leading scorer and ex-Sunderland and Birmingham forward.
Lollabee Group director Sheldon Stephen expressed delight to be part of Central’s Caribbean campaign and by extension the sport of football.
Stephen said his company would also look at possibly extending its relationship with the Couva Sharks into the domestic Pro League season to promote perhaps the company’s My Fit Menu, an affordable meal order service.
“All our concentration is on the Caribbean Club Championship,” continued John. The Central coach says his task involves gelling his new bunch in time for next week’s challenges in Dominican Republic.
“The most important thing is getting the guys to play together,” he said. “[And] understanding what the manager, I, (sic) want as a team, and hopefully we can go (on to quality) for the second round. As I’ve said, we want to win the tournament.”
New-look Central FC embark on CONCACAF quest.
T&T Newsday Reports.
A NEW-LOOK Central FC outfit will embark on their 2018 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship tomorrow, when they leave for the Dominican Republic to face Portmore United of Jamaica, Racing FC of Haiti and host club Atlantico FC, in Group B action.
The round-robin stage will run from February 7-11.
At a media launch at the refurbished Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya yesterday, the Brent Sancho-owned Central FC unveiled their 20-man squad, which features only seven players from their calamitous 2017 TT Pro League campaign. Entering last season with a hat-trick of Pro League titles, the club suffered badly due to lack of finances and finished ninth in the 10-team competition.
However, with Hydro Tech and Lollabee Group of Companies providing monetary assistance towards the club, a number of players have come on board as the team vie for a spot in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League.
Experienced Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell has joined the team as a free agent and has been entrusted with the role as captain, with evergreen midfielder Densill Theobald, who left current Pro League champs North East Stars during the off-season, named as the team’s vice-captain.
From the team’s 2016-2017 title campaign, midfielders Darren Mitchell (who was the team’s captain during that season), and Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, as well as striker Kerry Baptiste (who was part of the 2017 North East Stars outfit) and goalkeeper Javon Sample have returned, as well as utility player Anthony Wolfe.
National team wingers Nathan Lewis and Tyrone Charles have joined from San Juan Jabloteh while defender Jameel Neptune swapped North East for Central FC.
Another prominent name in the squad is veteran striker Cornell Glen, who last played for the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in the 2017 National Super League.
The technical staff has also been revamped with Anthony Rougier as assistant coach, Saaron Joseph as trainer, Esmond O’Brien as equipment manager and Denise Ramdoo as team manager.
Team coach Stern John said, “It’s a fantastic time to be around Central FC. We’re happy the sponsors have come on board.”
The former ace national striker pointed out, “After last season, we had a lot of players (who) moved on because of the financial situation. We had to rebuild (the) team for the Club Championship. We have a lot of experienced players, we have a lot of youngsters as well too. We’re trying to blend the youngsters with the senior players,” added the current TT national team assistant coach. “We don’t have the luxury to get rid of our experienced players. I think we need to get them involved in football still so we can bring the younger players through.”