Derek King probably began the 2009 Digicel Pro League season hoping to survive the hot seat longer than the few months which his former boss, Barbados’ Keith Griffith, lasted a year ago.
King was a Trinidad and Tobago national team defender while still a teenager and is best remembered for being sent off early after kicking down Brazilian superstar Ronaldhino as an Under-23 player before an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and reconstructive knee surgery curtailed his playing career. It was a 7-0 slaughter by the Brazilians that day,
So, who would believe that, at age 28, the inexperienced coach would already have landed an unprecedented four major titles--the 2009 Pro Bowl, Big Six, Toyota Classic and FA Trophy--after just nine months in charge.
Along the way, King has earned his employers, the Warner family, $450,000 in prize money, comprising $350,000 for the Pro League win, $25,000 for the Toyota Classic, $80,000 for the FA Trophy victory, and $30,000 when runners-up to Defence Force in the First Citizens Cup final.
And tonight, the Eastern Lions will seek a fifth piece of silverware and attempt to put another $100,000 cash in the kitty when they take on Caledonia AIA of Morvant-Laventille for the richest knockout prize of the season, the $100,000 Digicel Pro Bowl, from 8 p.m. at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
Preceding the season-ending Pro Bowl is an all-east affair between 2009 Coca Cola InterCol champions El Dorado East and BGTT Secondary Schools Football League champions St Augustine Secondary, which kicks off at 6 p.m.
King can create a bit of history by winning an unprecedented fifth major title, while Joe Public top-scorer Kerry Baptiste is just two away from 50 goals this season. And both have also been given some incentive to succeed by FIFA vice-president and club owner Jack Warner.
’They will get a very nice bonus after Friday’s success,’ Warner declared, in anticipation of a repeat Joe Public victory over Caledonia AIA, who they beat 3-1 in the FA Trophy semi-final just four days ago.
But Caledonia AIA have beaten them many times in the past. And King also comes up against 46-year-old Jamaal Shabazz, a former Joe Public coach who is quietly confident that his team can retain the Pro Bowl, which they won in 2008.
’Outside from going to the mosque or church we will have to work very hard because Joe Public have proven to be the fairytale team of the year,’ said Shabazz. ’But not all fairy tales have good endings.
’I think we were lacking a bit of quality in the absence of Theobald (Densill) and Daniel (Keon), who were both injured,’ Shabazz said of his team’s defeat when Joe Public took Cali’s FA Trophy title. ’But we should have at least one or both of them back. Neither will be able to play a full 90 minutes, but the presence of these players should provide a big inspiration.’
HOW THEY GOT TO THE DIGICEL PRO BOWL FINAL:
8 p.m.-Joe Public vs Caledonia AIA, Hasely Crawford Stadium
6 p.m.-El Dorado East Secondary vs St Augustine Secondary, Hasely Crawford Stadium
Joe Public 1 v Ma Pau 0
Caledonia AIA 1 v Defence Force 0
Joe Public 9 v Police 1
Caledonia AIA 5 v St Ann’s Rangers 0
Caledonia seeking to stop Joe Public.
By: Nigel Simon (T&T Guardian).
Trophy hungry bmobile Joe Public and title-holders, Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Laventille will close off the 2009 Pro League season when they clash in the $100,000 winner-take-all Digicel Pro Bowl final tonight.
The feature match of a double-header, Caledonia and Joe Public meet at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, from 8 pm.
Two hours earlier at the same venue, national and East Zone BGTT Secondary Schools Football League champions, St Augustine Secondary, and national Coca-Cola Inter-Col champions, El Dorado East Secondary, face off for the Invitational Challenge Trophy.
Going into the feature match, Joe Public, 1-0 semifinal winners over Ma Pau, will be seeking a second win in five days over Caledonia, after its 3-1 victory in the FA Trophy semifinal on Monday, prior to beating W Connection in Wednesday’s final, 3-2 in extra-time.
The Eastern Lions and coach Derek King are also seeking a record five titles in one season having already won the Digicel Pro League, Big Six and Toyota Classic competitions.
However, while Joe Public is expected to enter the match a tired bunch having played two matches in three days, Caledonia will be well rested and no doubt pumped up for the clash. Despite the hectic schedule King said he is looking forward to capturing title number five.
“We are going to come out on Friday to play entertaining football. We are going out there for number five and I have no doubts after what the guys showed on Wednesday night, we will be celebrating title number five.”
King, who will be without injured defender Keyeno Thomas, was mindful of the threat posed by Caledonia. “It will be a hard match.
Caledonia has been resting for the past four days while we have played three games in six days. But it’s a final and the last match of the season, so the guys are all motivated to give it their best.”
Asked what winning five titles in one season would mean, King said: “It would mean a lot for the club and myself as the first team to win five titles in one season as a Pro League club. It will be outstanding for the Joe Public family and the people that supported us,” said King.
On the other hand, Caledonia, which also won its semifinal 1-0, over Defence Force has surrendered the FA trophy already this season and will go into the match hunting a first piece of silverware for the year.
In the FA semifinal loss, Caledonia dominated the early proceedings against the Eastern Lions for most of the first half, but their lack of finishing in front of goal kept Joe Public in the match and coach Jamal Shabaaz will hope that his players get it right this time.
Once again, Shabaaz will have to do without the services of injured national duo, Keon Daniel and Densill Theobold, meaning Stephan David, veteran St Vincent and The Grenadines midfielder Kendall Velox and Guyanese defensive duo, captain Charles Pollard and Walter Moore will have to shoulder the responsibility.
St Augustine will go into the match against El Dorado unbeaten in three meetings between both schools this season, and will be favourites to capture the Digicel Pro Bowl Invitational Challenge trophy.