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NATIONAL STRIKER and captain of the 2004 T&T Pro League champs North East Stars, Jerren Nixon, has made a clarion call for sponsors to assist in the financial running of the club.
“I hope that we can get a (full-time) sponsor because for a few years the (owner) has been going out (for sponsorship) and we’re one of the best-supported teams in the country,” said the veteran forward. “I’ll really like a sponsor to come in and really contribute to the success of this club.” Nixon made this plea on Sunday evening, following the team’s 3-1 win over Defence Force at the Sangre Grande Recreation Ground, a result that virtually assured them of the 2004 league title. “We still have one more match to play (against) Starworld and we’ll want to finish the league on a winning note,” he said, referring to the final round of action this Sunday.

Besides a lack of a full-time sponsor, North East were also forced to do without Guyanese striker Randolph Jerome, who signed for Starworld Strikers uring the off-season. “Whatever you do, football must play,” is how Nixon sees it. “If a player chooses to leave (the club), nobody can’t force him. It was good that the rest of players who stayed showed that we could win it and that was good.” The North East story has been a true rags-to-riches tale. After making their debut in 2002, the team looked so disorganised and incompetent that one wondered whether they deserved to be playing at the highest level of local football. When owner Darryl Mahabir hired Guyanese James McLean as head coach a year later, Jerome, Nixon and fellow countrymen Charles Pollard, Abassi McPherson, Carey Harris, Kayode McKinnon and St Vincent’s Kendall Velox all joined the fledging unit.

With veteran goalkeeper Trevor Nottingham lending his experience, North East surprised many by defeating W Connection for the 2003 Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) FA Cup. “After coming last the first year (to) the FA the second year to the third (year) the championship, it shows that this team has the capacity to go forward and every year we’re going a step further. Next year, we just have to try to win the championship again,” Nixon said. The former Scotland and Switzerland-based attacker admitted that the 2004 title is one of the main moments of his career. “I’ve never won (a league) title in Trinidad because I’ve never played that long (in TT). It’s good to win something.

Last year was the FA, this year was the league so this club is just growing from strength to strength.” While he attributes “hard work, dedication and team effort” as the reasons for the team’s achievements this year, Mahabir added that the commitment from the technical staff and players were also integral in the club’s performances. Referring to the trophy, the affable Mahabir said: “This is just to rest our two hands. (On) Sunday we want to lift it up. Yes, we’re on top right now and we just want to keep it right there.” And, in his quiet style, McLean expressed gratitude to “the crowd, the Sangre Grande people, the families and the management” for their role in guiding the team from rock-bottom in 2002 to the top in 2004.