Head coach Ross Russell will unleash a galaxy of stars when Ma Pau Stars take the field for the first time this season in their opening 2016/17 Digicel Pro League match against Police FC on Tuesday from 6pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Also on Tuesday, the Port-of-Spain venue will also host the first El Clásico of the season when defending league champions Central FC—boasting former W Connection player Kenwyne Jones—will take on their bitter Couva rivals from 8pm.
But all eyes will first be on Ma Pau Stars in the opening fixture after pre-season signings by the Sangre Grande outfit include former Trinidad and Tobago internationals and 2006 World Cup players Carlos Edwards and Jason Scotland, 24-year-old former T&T youth star Jerrel Britto, and a return to the top level by fleet-footed winger Hayden Tinto.
Ma Pau Stars, formerly North East Stars, finished mid-table last season—one spot above sixth-place finishers Police—and newcomer Edwards says the aim is to win the league.
“We don’t want to just make up numbers,” said Edwards who occupied left-back, full-back and winger roles during his career. “We do have a good squad. We go with one aim and that’s to win the league.”
Edwards and striker Scotland, both 37-year-old former Defence Force players, are making their first return to the Pro League since 2000 and 2002, respectively, after lengthy spells in the United Kingdom.
Carlos had spells at Wrexham, Luton Town, Sunderland, Ipswich and Millwall—all of England—while Scotland represented Dundee United and St Johnstone in Scotland before moving to England where he went on to represent Swansea City, Wigan Athletic, Ipswich Town and Barnsley. Scotland later returned to Scotland and represented Hamilton Academical and Stenhousemuir.
“It’s about time I came home and give back something,” added Edwards. “…and try to build and put the Pro League on the map. Also [I want] to help the younger guys emulate what I have experience over my career. And that’s one of the main reasons I’m here.”
Edwards, a father of three, described his experience in England as “absolutely beautiful”. “It was challenging at first but after a while you get used to it and knowing what it’s about. At the end of the day you put your head down and focus on the job.”
Edwards is pursuing his coaching badges in England but isn’t ready to make the switch just yet. “I feel fit but in football age is a main factor for teams. I think I have a couple more years. So after this season we will see how it goes.”
Collin Samuel, another T&T member at the 2006 World Cup, currently serves as player/coach at Ma Pau Stars. The 35-year-old former Dundee United attacker boasts a wealth of knowledge having also represented other Scottish clubs Falkirk, St Johnstone, Arbroath, East Fife and Sauchie.
Samuel, Edwards and Scotland will have around them the likes of ace poacher Kerry Baptiste, T&T 2006 World Cup member Anthony Wolfe, Tinto who has represented T&T at various age levels including the senior team and Britto who has returned to Trinidad following stints at Guatemala’s Deportivo Malacateco and Mexico’s Murciélagos.
Other Ma Pau Stars players include former T&T Youth World Cup goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel and Jamaican goalie Shane Mattis; veterans Glenton Wolfe and Keryn Navarro; Hakim Baird, Neil Mitchell, Neil G. Mitchell, Kerry Daniel, Adrian Noel, former T&T Youth World Cup midfield teammates Jean-Luc Rochford and Chike Sullivan, Quincy Charles, Taryk Sampson and newcomers Elton John, Kareem Eastman and Sayid Freitas.
Upcoming Digicel Pro League 2016/17 matches
Tuesday Oct. 04, 2016
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Ma Pau Stars (formerly North East Stars) vs Police FC—6pm
Central FC vs W Connection—8pm
Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin
Club Sando 0 vs San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Keston Julien 14’)
(Match was abandoned on Friday after 48 minutes due to no lights. The match will recommence from 6pm on Tuesday at the same venue to complete the remaining minutes)
The following principles will apply:
a. the match shall recommence at the minute at which play was interrupted rather than being replayed in full, and with the same score line;
b. the match shall recommence with the same players on the pitch and substitutes available as when the match was abandoned;
c. no additional substitutes may be added to the list of players on the team sheet;
d. the teams can make only the number of substitutions to which they were still entitled when the match was abandoned;
e. players sent off during the abandoned match cannot be replaced;
f. any sanctions imposed before the match was abandoned remain valid for the remainder of the match;