San Juan Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey predicts the upcoming Digicel Pro League season will be tougher than the last.
Jeffrey, who led the San Juan Kings to one of two Concacaf Champions League qualifying spots – the Caribbean Club Championship 2017 – by finishing runners-up in the DPL behind two-time reigning champions Central FC, said the ambition is to achieve another top-two finish in 2016/17.
To try and achieve his goal, Jeffrey has boosted his squad with the San Juan return of Trinidad and Tobago international forward Willis Plaza and midfielder Elijah Manners, as well as talented T&T Under-20 defender Keston Julien and midfielders Kion Joseph and 27-year-old Canadian Lukas Risto. Plaza, who last represented El Salvador’s Allanza and Risto, formerly of Toronto Skillz FC, are pending international transfer certificates (ITC).
“Plaza will always make a contribution in the Pro League. He is the kind of player that any club will want once you want to achieve things,” said Jeffrey, who also believes Manners, Julien, Joseph and Risto can make huge contributions for his team in the coming season.
Jabloteh have retained the services of Grenada international Shemel Lousion, Guyanese Andrew Durant and Trinidadian Raheem Belgrave in the goalkeeping department; defenders Aquil Selby, Akeem Benjamin, Jevon Morris, Jerome Mc Intyre and Josiah Trimmingham; midfielders Sean Bonval, Brent Sam and Jamaica duo Damian Williams and Adrian Reid; and forwards Jamal Gay, Keyon Edwards, Tyrone Charles, Noel Williams and Trinidad and Tobago international Nathan Lewis.
Lewis, the club's most prolific forward last season, who was shot in his shoulder earlier this month during a drive-by shooting in his Maloney hometown, will miss the opening games while Jamaican playmaker Fabian Reid has returned to his homeland – for personal reasons following the birth of his daughter – where he joined Arnett Gardens.
“Our new signings have made us a stronger team than last season,” continued the Jabloteh coach. “[But] you have to be at the top of your game else you will lose. The league was close last season and this season it will be tougher.”
Jeffrey said Defence Force’s chemistry, having the same bunch of players for the longest period, and Central FC, the two-time reigning Caribbean and League champions, will give the biggest challenge. But also warned that W Connection, with a youthful but experienced squad, Club Sando, with new coach Angus Eve at the helm, and North East Stars with their new signings and coach Ross Russell, are other difficult opponents to be wary of.
“But if I have my way, I would like Jabloteh to finish on top and Police second,” continued Jeffrey, a former policeman and player. “Police have a good team but have beaten themselves a lot of times. I would like to see them return to the glory days.”
Jabloteh will tackle Club Sando on Friday September 30 from 5pm at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin in the opening game of the 2016/17 Digicel Pro League followed by home side Point Fortin Civic against Morvant Caledonia United from 7:30pm to complete a South-vs-North double-header at the venue.