Trinidad and Tobago internationals Willis Plaza and Rundell Winchester are both set to return to competitive action on Sunday 11 January after having their International Transfer Certificates (ITC) granted this week – the start of the January transfer window – which allows the pair to officially re-join the current Digicel Pro League 2014-2015 leaders Central FC.
According to Central, the 27-year-old Plaza will serve the "Couva Sharks" until the end of the current season, while 21-year-old Winchester resumes a pre-existing contract which ends in 2016.
Central FC head coach, Zoran Vranes, has already fitted the attacking pair into his plans along with 25-year-old defender Uriah Bentick, who also received his ITC this week and is available for selection on Sunday against eight-positioned Point Fortin Civic from 5 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, in Round One Match Day Eight.
"They (Plaza and Winchester) have been very good in training and are part of my squad," said Vranes, also who rates Bentick as an "excellent player". "They are a little bit behind in fitness but I expect them to catch up to the other guys soon."
Two hours later (7 pm) on Sunday at the same venue, defending league champions and second-positioned DIRECTV W Connection will meet third-positioned Caledonia AIA, both teams challenging Central for the top spot and inaugural Round One – Rawle Fletcher Trophy.
Connection and Caledonia, with two matches remaining in the round each, have 13 and 11 points respectively, while Central, who will complete their round of matches on Sunday, have 14 points.
The weekend action kicks off on Saturday 10 January at the Marvin Lee Stadium with fifth-positioned North East Stars against cellar-positioned St. Ann’s Rangers from 5 pm, followed by seventh-positioned Defence Force against sixth-positioned and Toyota Classic champions Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh from 7 pm.
Bentick, a then teammate of Central players Leston Paul, Sean de Silva, Jean-Luc Rochford and Qian Grosvenor with the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 team, coached by Vranes, that contested the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, has joined Central on a six-month agreement with the option to renew according to the Couva club.
In 2013, Bentick represented United Soccer League (USL) Pro outfit Wilmington Hammerhead, after four years at Liberty University in Virginia where he represented the “Liberty Flames”, and in 2014, he represented North American Soccer League (NASL) team Carolina RailHawks before returning to Trinidad.
Meanwhile Plaza, and Winchester, have endured months of agony, having to await the FIFA stipulated transfer window to re-join Central.
Last July the pair joined Belgian third division outfit CS Vise, teaming up with Central FC’s ex-coach Terry Fenwick. But less than three months later both players opted to return to Trinidad after a breach of contract by Vise – unable to fulfil salaries following the exit of then directors at the club.
Vise also failed to fulfil the first tranche of a transfer fee for Winchester and Central were happy to snap up both players, who were, respectively, exceptional in the club’s First Citizens Cup title and runners-up finish in the Digicel Pro League last season, while qualifying for the Caribbean Club Championship, which serves as the qualifying tournament towards the CONCACAF Champions League.
But while Plaza and Winchester were making their way out of Belgium, Central FC defender Elton John and former North East Stars full-back Kevon Villaroel were entering agreements with financially-strapped Vise.
Unsurprisingly, both 27-year-olds, John and Villaroel, a former Puerto Rico Islanders player in the USL, eventually made their return to Trinidad and also had to await the transfer window to join Central. Their ITCs have not been received yet making them unavailable for selection by Vranes.
Meanwhile 26-year-old defender Jamal Jack, returning from a loan stint with Alpha United in Guyana, has not been cleared to represent Central and joins John and Villaroel on the waiting list.
However all players have been in training along with a number of trialists – two of which are expected to be signed – and Vranes seems a very delighted man.
Vranes, who expects a tricky contest against the defeated 2014 Toyota Classic finalists, Civic, said, "We have a better team now. Not only because of the new additions. But because the guys are much more serious about the game and professionalism. They are lifting everything on and off the field. At this moment I am satisfied, not fully, but satisfied."
Vranes, who guided Central to its successful First Citizens Cup defence earlier this season, applauded the efforts of technical/management staff member Anthony Rougier, saying that the involvement of the former Trinidad and Tobago star and ex-European-based footballer has helped in improving the professional standard of the club in the areas of management and players.