BRENT SANCHO, owner of local football club Central FC, is hoping the new faces in his squad remain, as they shift focus to the 2018 Caribbean Club Championship Finals, tentatively set for May at a venue to be decided.
Central FC advanced to the Finals by virtue of topping Group B, a four-team preliminary round phase, in the Dominican Republic last week.
Central FC started their campaign poorly, beaten 2-0 by Portmore United of Jamaica last Wednesday, but they rebounded to defeat Racing FC of Haiti 3-0 on Friday, followed by a 1-0 win over host club Atlantico FC on Sunday.
The club has been blighted by financial troubles during the past year but they added a number of players on two-month long contracts, including past and present Trinidad and Tobago players Cornell Glen, Kerry Baptiste, Densill Theobald, Keron Cummings, Carlyle Mitchell, Tyrone Charles, Nathan Lewis and Darren Mitchell.
Sancho, in a telephone interview yesterday, said, “All the players that came in understand the situation. We were having long-term contractual conversations with some of these players. Nevertheless, we’re still waiting and navigating to see what is next as it relates to the (Club Championships) and when is our next round of games.
The former T&T defender and Minister of Sport, added, “We’ve spoken to several and they’ve all expressed an interest to continue in the cub. We’re hoping to have the same kind of team that were put forward to the Dominican Republic.”
Sancho noted that a few players are pondering moves overseas, and he will not stand in their way if such deals do transpire.
“There are one or two who would want to move on to leagues overseas,” Sancho said. “They are getting these kind of options. I would encourage them to take it because the football career is short. If they get something better, I would encourage them to go. The ones that are here and want to work with the club, they’re willing to stay.”
As far as preparations for the Finals are concerned, Sancho said, “The coaching staff will identify who are staying and identify who are going. On top of that, we’ll have discussions as it relates to sponsorship.”
He extended his gratitude to sponsors Hydro Tech Limited and Lolabees Group of Companies for their support thus far in the Caribbean Club Championships.
Sancho added, “We’ve been talking to the Chaguanas Borough Corporation about (using) facilities. So there are a lot of things happening that will have an impact on the type of squad that we’ll have, going into the final stage.”
With regards to both Hydro Tech and Lolabees, the Central FC owner said, “They’ve both expressed interest in continuing on.”
Sancho is hopeful that more sponsors can come on board to assist teams in the TT Pro League as their success in the Caribbean Championships proves they are doing something right. “I think it shows the strength of the TT Pro League and the viability of the reasons why it’s important to have this league,” he said.
Sancho said topping Group B was no easy feat as the had to overcome some odds.
“We have to give credit to (head coach) Stern (John) and the coaching staff and, moreso, we have to give credit to the players. It wasn’t the type of start that we would have wanted in this tournament (losing their first game) but, all and all, the players were outstanding to come back and perform like that.”
Sancho admitted that a number of players were battling a bout of food poisoning, including captain Mitchell, Theobald, Charles and Cummings.
“Despite all of that, the difficult terrain to play three games in five days, and having a month to prepare, it’s truly an outstanding result in those (last) two games,” said Sancho.
He ended, “One thing that stood out to me was the level of competition. Their standards have definitely risen and, if we are to continue to be successful in this competition, we need to step up our game.”