As a lifelong football supporter, I tend to believe in omens.
For example, my son and I soon felt that if we saw a wedding car on the way to Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham would win. If we saw two, Gillingham would win by two clear goals.
Bizarrely, we felt this unscientific thinking was around 80% accurate and it got to the point that, if Gillingham had a big game, we would detour to look for a wedding car. And we took it further.
On one occasion, England was playing away to Germany and we saw five wedding cars. I explained to my excited son that a) England very rarely score five goals and b) they have never scored five against Germany and never will do in my lifetime. The result was Germany 1, England 5.
So, on my way from the Central F.C. office in California on Friday evening, I was looking for signs.
Black smoke billowing into the sky on the road to the highway made me fearful of nose to tail traffic. But, no, the drive was lighter than a Sunday afternoon.
I95.5 fm has never been my first choice for music although the talk is addictive. Yet up popped one of my favourite tunes: “On & On” by Aswad, followed by my favourite band, Maze, which I have never heard on a Trinidad and Tobago radio station.
Omens? Must be!
I arrived at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium full of hope for Central FC’s first ever professional match against Defence Force.
But “Murphy’s Law”, which states that anything that can go wrong will do so, was closer than I thought.
The day had already been stressful.
We couldn’t print the match programme we had done as the copier ran out of ink. Our new uniforms were supposed to arrive from the printers at midday but finally got to us at 7.50 pm, just 10 minutes before kick off.
The light traffic which allowed me swift passage did not last and our rhythm section arrived at 7 pm, which was 30 minutes after the tailgate party was due to start. By then, the supporters had already entered the stadium to watch the first game.
So, by kick off, I was pretty nervous.
After eight stressful weeks, we were finally about to kick a ball in anger. The first competitive match for the team, head coach Graham Rix’s first professional game in T&T and the first time “The Sharks” would appear in front of the paying public.
For the last two weeks, I repeatedly stated that the only team I did not want to play first was Defence Force. The army/coast guard team traditionally has continuity and the guys tend to know each other and the coach, Ross Russell, very well. They are organised and disciplined and know their system inside out.
I felt most of the others had new squads and were still learning to gel while Caledonia and W Connection might be distracted by the CONCACAF Champions League and all the travel and organisation that entails.
But fate thought differently and Defence Force it would be.
Central started off with intensity and forced Army to work for every yard of space and fight for every ball. Cousins Shaquille Nesbitt and Kevaughn Connell were linking up nicely down the left and Keron “Ballpest” Cummings was living up to his nickname by chasing and tackling and, well, generally being a pest!
As the teams came out for the second half with the score at 0-0, I was hopeful that The Sharks would devour the Army team. But my omens didn’t stand a chance.
After five minutes, Defence Force took the lead when Richard Roy took advantage of some sloppy defending. Central threw everything at the Army defence after that but didn’t really threaten too much.
And, as Central pushed further up the field, gaps appeared at the back that was cannon fodder for the Army’s artillery. Roy scored his second on 70 minutes and his strike partner Devorn Josling made it 3-0 on 90 minutes.
Suffice to say, my journey home was a long one. After all the hype and hope came the reality check. We had never promised to win every game or win the league. But losing 3-0 was certainly not that start we planned.
The nice thing about football is that the next game is never far away and we play W Connection on 2nd October. A Central derby? Maybe, but certainly a battle between two clubs with similar mentalities.
I’ve always found “W” a friendly club. In fact at half time on Friday, I took a few beers over to Mr Williams and his staff to congratulate them on their penalty shootout win over Police.
Their players always look smart and the team has a great disciplined air about them.
I hope we beat the crap out of them on 2nd October! And then I’ll be happy to buy them all another beer.
Omens? Nah, I’m done with omens.
Central will get back on the training field, Rix will work the boys hard and we’ll develop our own style of play. We may not win the league this year but we will certainly show that these Sharks can bite and bite hard.