Russ Russell says he isn’t overwhelmed by his duties as new head coach of last season’s seven-title-winning Central FC but admitted it’s “a work in progress” at the “Couva Sharks”.
“I do have to adjust,” said the 47-year-old former Defence Force coach. “Things are a little different but not strange business for me.”
Last season (2014/2015) Central achieved a milestone under the coaching of Serbia-born coach Zoran Vranes for most of the season then ending with Englishman Terry Fenwick at the helm.
During the season, the “Couva Sharks” – a three-year-old club – won seven titles, among them the Digicel Pro League championship and Caribbean Club Championship.
Russell added, “I am accustomed to championship teams. But it’s all a work in progress at Central and the more we go forward, the better we get.
“The players here at Central are pretty capable and they are working hard. I am confident in the players but they must understand my kind of work ethic.”
Last December, Russell’s tenure with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force came to a compulsory end, due to his age and rank of Staff Sergeant, which meant all goodbyes to the place he had served admirably as a soldier for just over two and a half decades.
Russell, a former Defence Force and Trinidad and Tobago goalie, had great coaching success with the army/coastguard combination professional outfit, leading them to two (Digicel) Pro League championships (2010-2011 & 2012-2013), the First Citizens Cup (2009) and the Digicel Pro Bowl (2012) during his spell, which began in 2009.
Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams is backing Russell to do well at the “Couva Sharks”, beginning with Friday’s 2015/2016 season curtain-raising Digicel Charity Shield against three-time holders W Connection from 7 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
“The majority of the players understand it’s a transitional period with a new coach coming in and we need a bit more time to understand him and for him to understand us,” said the 30-year-old Williams, who will don the captain’s armband this season.
“He (Russell) has been a champion before with Defence Force and he had wins against both Central and W Connection during his time there. He is supposed to have a fair enough idea of W Connection and Central. Now that he is at Central he should also have an idea of what he wants us to do on Friday.”
Only a few days after taking charge of out-of-season Central, filling the position left vacant by Fenwick in May, Russell was thrown into immediate competition in the 2015/2016 Concacaf Champions League.
In their opening Group D match of the CCL on 6 August, Central suffered a 5-1 defeat at MLS outfit LA Galaxy, a club well into their domestic season. But the “Couva Sharks” had an improved showing, although going under 1-0, at Guatemala’s Comunicaciones on 27 August.
Now Russell, who also has international coaching experience in various positions with Trinidad and Tobago national teams’ setup in the Men’s, Women’s and Youth, will have his first competitive match on home soil as Central FC head coach against domestic opponents (W Connection) before refocusing on CCL competition.
Connection, also representing Trinidad and Tobago at the CCL this season, struggled in their opening two matches of the campaign against teams that are also well into their domestic season.
Connection were defeated 4-0 at Mexico’s Santos Laguna on 4 August, and by the same score-line at Costa Rica’s Saprissa on 20 August.
Following Friday’s Charity Shield, both Connection and Central will be at home for their second leg Group matches of the CCL, all at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Connection will tackle Saprissa on 16 September before wrapping up against Santos on 22 September. While Central must host Comunicaciones on 17 September and Galaxy on 23 September.