Mon, Feb

La Horquetta Rangers

AFTER a fourth-placed finish in the inaugural T&T Premier Football League (TTPFL) season, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers head coach Dave Quamina has promised to unleash a more youthful looking team in the league’s second season as his team tries to strike the right balance. The new TTPFL season kicked off on Friday night with a double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, with reigning tier one champions Defence Force emerging as the lone winners on the night after a resounding 5-0 victory over newcomers 1976 FC Phoenix.

Rangers’ TTFPL campaign kicked off with a matchup against Heritage Petroleum Point Fortin Civic at the Mahaica Sporting Complex in Point Fortin yesterday.

Last season, with players such as Tyrone Charles, 34, Ataullah Guerra, 36, Daneil Cyrus, 32, Kadeem Corbin, 27, Real Gill, 20, and Kaihim Thomas, 20, at their disposal for most of the season, Rangers finished five points back of third-placed Tiger Tanks Club Sando and missed out on qualification for Concacaf Caribbean club football as a result.

Both Corbin and Gill transferred to Sando during the league campaign last season, with the former now at last season’s runner-up AC PoS. Thomas tasted TTPFL success as he made a timely transfer to Defence Force last season, and he was joined at the Army by former Rangers goalkeeper Jabari St Hillaire who was called up by Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve for the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League A campaign.

Quamina said Rangers have lost good, young talent, but they have also taken measures to replace those players within the squad. Rangers have drafted in former Central FC striker Kesean St Rose, ex-Jabloteh defender Jelani Peters and former national under-17 winger Tyrese “Boy Boy” Bailey.

Last year’s Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) MVP Tarik Lee, who featured sparingly for Rangers last season, is still within the ranks, alongside the aforementioned veteran trio of Charles, Cyrus and Guerra, who have over 120 T&T international appearances combined.

“I think all teams are going into the season with their (expectations) high. Football is played on the day. You cannot predict a season until it starts,” Quamina told Newsday in an interview done before the start of the season.

“Last season was competitive so we are going to try and see how close we could be to the top. We have a lot of young players this time around so we will be trying to do better than we did last season.”

Rangers arguably went into the inaugural TTPFL season as one of the favourites, particularly after a dominant showing in the 2022 Ascension Invitational tournament. They started the season brightly and looked to be contenders, but ran out of steam and faded badly. Club owner Richard Ferguson even publicly admonished his players following a 1-0 win against Jabloteh at their Phase 2 La Horquetta home ground in May.

When asked if Rangers felt any pressure going into the new season, Quamina said, “I think all the teams are under pressure. One of the teams you may have to watch this year is the Point Fortin (Civic) team. They have assembled a good squad. They have assembled a good bunch of players so that is a team you have to watch.

“You still have to watch the Defence Force and Police. It will be a competitive (season) this time around. It will not be a walkover. I do not think there are any so-called big teams.” He added, “Last season was not one of our better seasons pertaining to conceding goals. I think we were up there with the top teams in the goal scoring department but (defensively we were not at our best).

“We are trying to have a balanced seasoning pertaining to goal-scoring and defending. Football is played both ways so we are trying to work on that.”

Rangers’ Phase 2 La Horquetta home base has almost become the local benchmark for the right mix of football and entertainment, with hundreds of spectators flocking to the venue to enjoy the on-field football drama and the off-field performances and parties.

“We will try to please the fans by coming out and trying to perform and make the La Horquetta community proud from the first game to the last game. We will give our best. All the teams have an opportunity and a chance to play for something because teams (want Concacaf Caribbean Cup) glory.”

On Wednesday, the TTPFL announced an increase in the prize money for both the tier one and tier two competitions, with a total of $800,000 in prizes to be distributed across the two divisions. The championship-winning team in tier one will receive $250,000 – doubling the amount given to last season’s winners. Quamina anticipates a fight to the finish.

“I think about four or five teams have a very good chance of coming into the mix for the Concacaf club tournaments so we will see how it goes. All the teams have to work on the day. It will not be a walkover.”

TTPFL knockout finalists last season, it remains to be seen which version of the Rangers team will show up for this TTPFL campaign.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday