The Digicel Charity Shield is one of three domestic trophies to have ever escaped the reigning Digicel Pro League and Caribbean champions Central FC — the others being the FA Trophy and Toyota Classic.
Now the “Couva Sharks”, heading into only their fourth season of existence, aim to lower that statistic this coming Friday (11 September) when they meet rivals and three-time (2012, 2013 & 2014) Digicel Charity Shield holders W Connection in the 2015 edition from 7 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
“We haven’t won the Charity Shield yet as a team, so it’s key for us in getting our hands on it,” said goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who was one of the key players for the seven-title-winning Central last season.
The Digicel Charity Shield, which began three seasons ago, serves as the curtain raiser for the new Pro League calendar and pits the winners of the Digicel Pro League and the winners of the Digicel Pro Bowl. But both competitions were won by Central hence W Connection, the league runners-up, provide the opponents and a repeat of the 2014 edition. The winning team will receive $100,000 to be donated to a charitable cause of choice.
Connection won the inaugural Digicel Charity Shield with a 2-0 result over Defence Force in 2012 thanks to some goalkeeping heroics of Williams, the only goalkeeper to win a Pro League Player of the Year award. But by March 2013, the former Europe-based goalkeeper was forced to part ways with the “Savonetta Boys” in a decision which stemmed from a verbal clash with coach Stuart Charles Fevrier two months earlier.
Connection, however, went on to the Charity Shield in 2013 with a 4-2 win over Defence Force, who were again coached by Ross Russell.
Connection completed a hat-trick of the Charity Shield in 2014 by edging Central, the club of goalkeeper Williams, 1-0 to retain the title but failed to defeat the “Couva Sharks” a second time for the remainder of the 2014/2015 season.
Central held Connection to a 1-1 draw in Round One of the Digicel Pro League (DPL), then edged the “Savonetta Boys” 1-0 in Round Two before both teams played to a 0-0 draw in Round Three.
Central went on to win the DPL crown, which was previously held by Connection, who had to settle for the second place finish. Then Central had the final say last season by defeating Connection in the crowning match of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2015.
Also in 2014/2015, Central won the First Citizens Cup and the inaugural Rawle Fletcher, Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies for each round of the DPL, to occupy a cabinet which also boasts the 2013 First Citizens Cup and 2014 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield.
With a season as illustrious as the previous, the 30-year-old Williams admits it won’t be an easy upcoming 2015/2016 season for Central but holds confidence in his teammates and recently installed head coach Ross Russell.
Referring to the stutter start this season by reigning champions Chelsea FC in the English Premier League, Williams said, “They (Chelsea) flew through the Premier League last season and if you look now it shows that every season is different.
“Champions are always under pressure, regardless of who we play, because we want to keep on top. But beginning on Friday, it would be the start of something exciting and new for all of us at Central.
“We are always cautious of W Connection because their reputation says a lot. It will be a very interesting game on Friday. Both teams already have two highly competitive games in the Concacaf Champions League under their belts, W Connection playing against Santos Toluca (Mexico) and Saprissa (Costa Rica) and us against LA Galaxy (USA) and Comunicaciones (Guatemala). Both teams will be fit and ready for a good contest in the Charity Shield,” said the Central FC goalie.
Williams, who represented T&T in a 3-3 international friendly draw with Concacaf Gold Cup champions Mexico last Friday, said he is no longer nursing a grade one hamstring strain picked up during the Gold Cup in July. He credited T&T national team doctor Terrence Babwah and physiotherapist Dave Issac for his quick recovery which allowed him to represent Central in the opening two Group stage matches of the Concacaf Champions League.