Police FC coach Richard Hood wants his men to show their full potential in the shortened 2016/17 season which runs September to February.
The Lawmen will kick-off their Digicel Pro League (DPL) 2016/17 campaign on Tuesday October 4 against Ma Pau Stars, formerly North East Stars, but action commences on Friday September 30 with a South-vs-North double-header at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin. (See schedule below)
This season the DPL will have two Rounds, with teams facing each other twice and not the regular three Rounds, while only the First Citizens Cup and Digicel Pro Bowl knockout competitions will be contested to facilitate the shortened season format before the Pro League reverts to its April to December calendar for the 2017 season.
Hood said his players have the “potential to do really well” and the ultimate goal of Police FC has always been to win titles.
Police came closest to ending a two-decade title drought in 2014 by reaching the final of the Digicel Pro Bowl, under Hood, but lost to W Connection in the title game. The Lawmen last enjoyed silverware in 1994 with the National League and FA Trophy double.
Hood believes it has been difficult for most of his players in overcoming psychological and physical challenges in balancing their jobs as policemen and the football.
“The fact is that we are not fully a professional team,” Hood said. “We have the players with the quality but always had the problem having to battle with the football and duties [off the field]. Our players can’t dedicate their lives to the football as a professional team could. It’s not comfortable for the players and it makes it even more difficult to try and have success on the field. This has been responsible for a lot of the inconsistencies in our performances.”
Last season Police finished sixth in the Digicel Pro League – their best finish in the last three seasons – and Hood, who pointed out that his team were second at the end of Round One, stands optimistic ahead of the shortened 2016/17 season although being without scoring ace Makesi Lewis who suffered a broken leg in pre-season training after colliding with a goalkeeper.
Lewis, who is expected to be out for eight months, top scored in the DPL last season with 20 goals while his performances won him three international caps with the Trinidad and Tobago team against Grenada, Uruguay and China.
“We will miss having Makesi (Lewis) but I am hoping that other players can take up the mantle,” said Hood. “We have players that can destroy any defence at any given time. It’s now for those players to go out and show a little more maturity and do well. It’s also my job to find the best way for the players.
“I expect us to have a really good season. We encountered a number of problems along the way last season in our goalkeeping department with (Adrian) Foncette away at times as well as a number of injuries. But things are expected to be better this season having goalkeeper Foncette for the full season as well as a number of new additions to the squad.”
Hood has boosted his arsenal with the return of former Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 midfielder Micah Lewis, who spent last season in Turkey with lower division side Serik Belediyespor, as well as new signings in former T&T youth captain and defender Ryan O’Neil (St. Ann’s Rangers), Nideon Noel (Point Fortin Civic), Kadeem Hutchinson (St. Ann’s Rangers), Ken Ceohas, Xavier Wheeler, Nequan Caruth and Joshua Leach.
Regular captain and veteran midfielder Todd Ryan will again lead the squad inclusive of goalkeepers Adrian Foncette and Theon Browne; defenders Karlon Murray, Anton Hutchinson, Dexter Alleyne, Elijah Belgrave, Jibri Mc David, Akeil Thomas and Kemron Purcell; midfielders Kaaron Foster, Kareem Freitas, Dillon Kirton, Kurdell Brathwaite, Kadeem Riley, Christon Thomas, Wendell Joseph and Kenaz Williams; forwards Jameel Perry, Keion Wilson, Shaquille Nesbitt and utility player Clevon Mc Fee.