Nineteen year old Central FC attacker, Rundell Winchester, set up a crucial equalizer before scoring the winner on Friday night, in a 2-1 come from behind win over Defence Force in the Final of the 2013 First Citizens Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Winchester was eventually named Player of the Final while his club, Central, formed only 15 months ago and representing the people of the central Trinidad, celebrated its first ever title and the $100,000 first prize money that accompanied the illustrious Cup.
It wasn't by luck according to an overjoyed Central football club managing director Brent Sancho.
“Hard work really pays off,” said Sancho a former Trinidad and Tobago international and World Cup 2006 defender.
“We were doing a lot of planning during the summer and the period before that,” he added. “We were doing some long hours at the office and hats off to (coach) Terry Fenwick, (team administrator) Adrian Romain and the rest of guys.
They did a tremendous job on and off the pitch during pre- season, and I'll tell you what ... hard work really pays off as I’ve said before. We came out to do things this season and we've worked really hard in the off-season for this and we are reaping the benefits from it.”
Winchester, of Tobago, fresh from his first Trinidad and Tobago senior team (88th minute) appearance on Tuesday in a 0-0 draw against visiting New Zealand at the very same venue, was always going to be a threat because of his deceptive speed.
But it was last season's defeated finalists, and two-time (2002 and 2009) First Citizens Cup winners, Defence Force, that went ahead first after dominating the opening moments.
Devorn Jorsling delivered early for Army, when in the 10th minute his left footed strike from outside the area nestled into the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage, although Central and T&T goalie Jan Michael Williams had some glove on the ball.
Williams, however, was brilliant, three minutes earlier, when he closed down Josimar Belgrave and produced a block with his legs, after a neat pass by Jorsling set his teammate free inside the area behind the defense.
And moments later Williams was called into action again when easily gathered an effort from distance by Army winger, Kevon Carter.
Williams was fully committed outside his area in the in the 39th minute when a long pass through the middle by Belgrave allowed Carter a chase at goal, but the Central goalie did well to strip Carter of the ball with the use of his legs before clearing it to safety.
Then on the stroke of halftime Central levelled the scoring, 1-1, when another 19 year-old, Dwight Quintero, struck home the equalizer off Winchester's cross which defender Rodell Elcock and goalkeeper Kevin Graham failed to take care of.
Winchester later scored the winner in the 75th minute for a 2-1 score when he controlled a Johan Peltier pass between two defenders at the edge of the area and lashed home a perfect left-footed half volley into the upper corner to beat Graham.
“Right now I'm so happy,” said an overjoyed Winchester following the match as he tried to gather himself. “I just can't stop smiling. It's a great achievement for me; I got MVP in a Final for the first time in my career.”
Winchester who joined Central from Tobago’s Stokely Vale during last season’s December/January transfer window responded to questions on life at Central FC and his speed, saying, “I'm enjoying it [at Central]. And I don't know if I'm the fastest, but everybody keeps telling me that … and it's looking so.”
As for his national team and club ambitions, Winchester is simply focused on working hard.
He said, “I just want to continue working hard. My coach Terry Fenwick is always pushing me hard in training to become better. He is always telling me go for glory and look for number one. So I'm just working hard and looking for the glory, and continuing to motive myself to get that winning spirit.”
Fenwick meanwhile was a bit critical of his young talent, saying, “I thought he was absolute rubbish until he scored the goal. He kept going to ground and wasn't listening. He wasn't doing what we practiced on the training ground, but he is a young kid and I believe he'd improve.”
Defence Force had their second half opportunities also, but a Kerry Joseph ball from the right in the 53rd minute rolled dangerously across the area and wide of the far post as everyone failed to make contact.
And two minutes after the Winchester item, Army substitute Curtis Gonzales had a go at goal, but missed the target inches wide of the upright.
Central came close to another item just before the final whistle when substitute Keon Trim’s strike at goal crashed onto the base of the upright after beating a fully stretched Graham.
Celebrations erupted on the final blow of referee Neil Brizan’s whistle, and the First Citizens Cup, which was won six times previously by Central’s bitter-town rivals, (DIRECTV) W Connection, is returned to central Trinidad.
“It's often very difficult to break a duck," said Fenwick, who took charge of Central in January of last season, after the position was left vacant by fellow Englishman Ricky Hill, and finished the team in a creditable fifth position and FA Trophy runners-up behind 1-0 winners Caledonia AIA.
“It is great to get off the mark,” added the three-time league winning coach while at former club San Juan Jabloteh. “It was a tough game. Army bust us first half.
They had more men in the team, but I think [when] I changed the formation of our team, we looked much stronger and much better. We did get a lifeline just before the break and Jan Michael did pull us out two or three times in the first half. But I thought second half we dominated and created better chances.”
But what does the First Citizens Cup mean for Central and its supporters.
“Look at [them],” said Sancho, pointing to an ecstatic section of the crowd. “We've had tremendous support from the people of central. We had about eight or nine maxis coming to the stadium tonight. They want to support the team. We want to build a strong community team and I think that we are getting there from strength to strength.
We'd see what else comes from it. It's title number one, but there are some things we obviously need to work on, so we would see what other blessings come from the hard work that we put in.
“We are a young team, a young club, and we would just try to go along as it comes to us. We are going to continue working hard. Winning this title isn't going to stop us from working hard,” assured the Central FC boss.
Central, undefeated thus far this season and presently occupies fourth position on the Digicel Pro League standings with 4 points from two matches, will return to league action on Tuesday against a much more powerfully fan-supported opponent and second positioned Point Fortin Civic FC (9 points after 3 matches) from 8pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Round One Match Day Four.
Also on Tuesday, league leaders W Connection (9 points after 3 matches) will take on third positioned North East Stars (6 points after 3 matches) from 6pm at the Couva venue.
At the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Police FC will tackle San Juan Jabloteh from 6pm, and Defence Force against Caledonia AIA from8pm.
First Citizens Cup Final 2013
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Central FC 2 – 1 Defence Force
Dwight Quintero 45', Rundell Winchester 75' ; Devorn Jorsling 10'
Central FC— 21. Jan-Michael Williams, 10. Marvin Oliver (capt.), 2. Elton John, 3. Keion Goodridge, 11. Darren Mitchell (22. Keon Trim 76th), 9. Dwight Quintero (19. Dwight Pope 87th) 12. Jamal Jack, 13. Johan Peltier, 17. Rundell Winchester, 24. Akeem Benjamin, 15. Kaydion Gabriel (6. Toric Robinson 54th).
Unused substitutes—16. Javon Sample (G), 4. Omar Charles, 16. Akil De Freitus, 23. Hector Sam.
Coach— Terry Fenwick.
Defence Force—1. Kevin Graham, 14. Corey Rivers (C) (Yellow Card) (3. Keston Williams 60th), 10. Josimar Belgrave (26. Richard Roy 78th), 11. Kevon Carter, 13. Marvin Jones, 18. Sean Narcis, 21. Aklie Edwards, 23. Kerry Joseph (Yellow Card), 9. Devorn Jorsling, 6. Rodell Elcock, 5. Devin Jordan (8. Curtis Gonzales 46th).
Unused substitutes—25. Sheldon Clarke (G), 15. Jerwyn Balthazar, 17. Ross Russell Jr., 12. Jemel Sebro.
Match Referee—Neil Brizan.
Tobago love: Winchester leads Central to First Citizens Cup
By Lasana LIBURD (Wired868)
It was about 20 minutes after the final whistle but Central FC striker Rundell Winchester was in no hurry to leave the Hasely Crawford Stadium and the scene of his most impressive triumph to date.
The 19-year-old Tobagonian set up Central’s equalising goal and then scored a superb winner as the “Couva Sharks” edged Defence Force 2-1 in the First Citizens Cup final. In the process, he helped Central secure its first domestic top flight crown after less than a year and a half in existence.
“I just can’t stop smiling,” Winchester told Wired868. “I’m just so happy right now… I want to thank my coach Terry Fenwick, and my teammates; and my mom for bringing me into this world…”
If it sounded like Winchester was accepting an Oscar; but there is a touch of Hollywood about the teenager’s rise from obscurity, which was completed a stone’s throw away from Movie Towne.
A year ago, Winchester was a Stokely Vale player in the Super League and an unknown commodity outside Tobago. This week, he replaced Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones late substitute in an international friendly against 2010 World Cup nation, New Zealand.
And, three days later, Winchester cut himself a slice of history for Central while winning the MVP award in a cup final to boot.
Defence Force coach Ross Russell might have been doubly distressed by the way the First Citizens Cup final unfolded.
Last November, Russell was national under-20 coach when the young Warriors finished dead last in a Caribbean group that included Haiti, Puerto Rico and Curacao. Winchester was not in his squad and, presumably, Russell had never heard of him.
It is farcical that scouting can be such an obvious problem in a country of well under two million inhabitants and in which one can drive from one end of the island to the next within three hours and Tobago is just a 15 minute plane ride away. But that is another issue.
The November 2012 Toyota Classic competition, which was a mixture of Pro League and Super League teams, alerted Central to the likes of Winchester, Darren Mitchell and Omar Charles and Sharks’ managing director Brent Sancho snapped them up in the January transfer window.
Yesterday, Central reaped the benefits although it was harsh on Russell and his soldiers.
“We were apprehensive at the start tonight and Army bossed us,” said Central coach Terry Fenwick. “No one has done that to us so far this season.”
Central whipped Defence Force 3-1 in their previous meeting this season but there was no sign of inferiority by the Pro League defending champion team as the “Teteron Boys” made a roaring start.
Devorn Jorsling did not feature when the two clubs met last month and he did not take long to make his mark last night.
In the sixth minute, he flicked through for winger Kevon Carter who was blocked by the legs of Central and Trinidad and Tobago custodian Jan-Michael Williams.
Three minutes later, Carter found Jorsling in space and the outcome was never in doubt when last season’s top scorer cocked his left boot inside the penalty area.
Jorsling celebrated his early strike with a typically creative celebration as his teammates lined up like bowling pins and the veteran striker rolled the ball to comically knock them all on their backs.
Fenwick changed tactics from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 system, which gave his players more straightforward man to man duties. But still his young team struggled against the direct and incisive soldiers.
In the 37th minute, a dangerous Kerry Joseph cross provoked a ridiculous, blind backheeled attempted clearance by Central defender Akeem Benjamin, who was fortunate to see the ball bounce off Carter and roll out for a goal kick.
Two minutes later, Josimar Belgrave opened the Central defence as casually as if it was an automatic door but Williams denied Carter with a tremendous save with his legs.
And, just as it seemed that Central would be happy to end the half with a one-goal deficit, the Sharks pulled level.
Winchester, now deployed on the left flank, stepped inside and curled a cross into the box where fellow teenager Dwight Quintero rose to force a header past Defence Force keeper Kevin Graham. It was almost the last kick of the first half.
Both teams chose to strengthen defensively in the second half as the versatile Curtis Gonzales and man-mountain Keston Williams were introduced for Defence Force while Central brought on Jamaican midfield sentry Toric Robinson.
But neither team could find any rhythm offensively as the game trudged towards to extra time.
But Winchester had other ideas.
The Central build-up was sharp but not electric. Right back Elton John passed inside to Oliver who, under pressure, stabbed up the left flank where Peltier had swapped places with Winchester.
Peltier stepped in off the wing and played a crisp, low cross-field pass towards Winchester, who was in the inside right channel. And Winchester gave the ball a gentle tap to his left before absolutely hammering it with his left boot; and the sphere flew towards the near post “vee” and into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Defence Force could not find an answer to that strike.
“That goal meant a lot to me,” said Winchester. “It is the first time I’ve scored a goal in a final; and to score a goal like that!
“And then I only just got a (national) call-up… It is such a great achievement for me where I came from…”
It was Fenwick’s first trophy since 2011, when he led Jabloteh to the TTFF FA Trophy before the San Juan club temporarily withdrew from the top flight due to financial problems.
“The first (trophy) can be a bogey,” said Fenwick. “Now that we have won it, I think we can relax and enjoy our season a bit more. Hopefully we can grow from strength to strength after tonight.”
Winchester was still walking around, grinning from ear to ear and clutching his MVP trophy.
“I will just keep on working hard,” he said. “I know hard work brings success…”
Fenwick credited the Tobagonian for a brilliant and decisive goal. And then he made it clear that the teenager still had a lot to do to satisfy him.
“I thought he was poor for most of the night,” said Fenwick, a former Tottenham captain and England World Cup defender. “He kept losing his footing and giving the ball away… But then he can score goals like that; so you don’t want to take him off.”
About a dozen Tobagonians travelled to Port of Spain to see last night’s final and they cooed proudly about Winchester’ winning goal. Perhaps they were here last Tuesday too when Winchester made his international debut and almost sniffed out a late winner against New Zealand.
At the rate the young Central striker is progressing, Tobago football fans will probably be making themselves comfortable in the Hasely Crawford Stadium for years to come.
Central FC (4-1-3-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 2.Elton John, 24.Akeem Benjamin, 12.Jamal Jack, 3.Keion Goodridge, 10.Marvin Oliver; 11.Darren Mitchell (22.Keon Trim 75), 15.Kaydion Gabriel (6.Toric Robinson 53), 13.Johan Peltier, 9.Dwight Quintero (19.Dwight Pope 87), 17.Rundell Winchester.
Unused substitutes: 25.Javon Sample (GK), 4.Omar Charles, 16.Akil De Freitas, 23.Hector Sam.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
Defence Force (4-4-1-1): 1.Kevin Graham (GK); 13.Marvin Jones, 5.Devin Jordan (8.Curtis Gonzales 46), 6.Rodell Elcock, 21.Aklie Edwards; 23.Kerry Joseph, 14.Cory Rivers (captain) (3.Keston Williams 58), 18.Sean Narcis, 11.Kevon Carter; 10.Josimar Belgrave (26.Richard Roy 77); 9.Devorn Jorsling
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 12.Jemel Sebro, 15.Jerwyn Balthazar, 17.Ross Russell Jr.
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Neal Brizan
First Citizens Cup final
Central FC 2 (Dwight Quintero 45, Rundell Winchester 85), Defence Force 1 (Devorn Jorsling 9) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.