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Rangers’ reconnection mission: New coach, fresh vision for St Ann’s team

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a club. That may not be what the old adage says but it is what the St Ann’s Rangers Football Club Chairman Richard Fakoory and Director of Operations Richard Piper appear to believe.

It is the reason behind their recently announced move to have new-man-on-the-block Gilbert Bateau replace interim coach Dean Pacheco. Pacheco, the 40-year-old former national midfielder, coached the club for the first time last season and earned just 13 points from their 21 matches to finish in seventh position in the eight-team Digicel Pro League standings.

Photo: St Ann's Rangers and Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams (right) has a rough day at the office against Caledonia AIA. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: St Ann’s Rangers and Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams (right) has a rough day at the office against Caledonia AIA.
(Courtesy Wired868)

When contacted by Wired868.com, Bateau declined to discuss the details of his plans for Rangers in the season ahead. However, he told club representatives that as a member of the St Ann’s community, he had “always kept an eye on what was happening” with the club and that, although he had been “away from the club for some time,” it was for him “a pleasure to be back at St Ann’s Rangers.”

Bateau is confident that by increasing the focus on discipline within the football, he will be able to get the club “back on track.”

Piper revealed that the club’s ultimate goal is “to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the CONCACAF Champions’ League.” In the short term, however,  management merely hopes to see the Rangers finish “at least middle of the pack next season” and, within a three-year period, “hopefully (…) to be battling in the top three.”

Bateau must prove his worth to that long-term vision as his initial contract is just for the 2013-14 season.

Photo: New St Ann's Rangers coach Gerald Bateau (left) is welcomed to the fold by Director of Operations Richard Piper.
Photo: New St Ann’s Rangers coach Gilbert Bateau (left) is welcomed to the fold by Director of Operations Richard Piper.

He will be assisted towards that end by Sheldon Scipio (Trainer), Nigel Neverson (Goalkeeping Coach) and Brandon Williams (Assistant Goalkeeping Coach) as well as of two assistant coaches in Jason Spence, who also doubles up as Team Manager and Youth Technical Director, and Everett Williams.

Bateau is the father of national defender Sheldon Bateau, who plays with Belgian Pro League club KV Mechelen. This, however, is not his major claim to footballing fame. He is a qualified referee and a certified trainer as well as the holder of a coaching license. He also worked with the National Under-23, Under-20 and Under-17 teams as well as with top Pro League club San Juan Jabloteh in the era when they ruled the roost.

The Rangers’ media release, which announced his announcement, stated: “The owners and the Board believe that, in Gilbert Bateau, they have a coach with the ability to come in and deliver the objectives that have been set for the future.”

Piper identified these objectives to Wired868 as “revitalizing youth development and building back that strong connection with the St Ann’s community.” Not necessarily in that order.

The Rangers Director of Operations reflected on the 2012-13 season and elaborated on the reasons for the change. Noting the “tough situation” that existed at the start of the year, he said the club had been “fortunate to finish the season.”

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago forward Hector Sam (right) left St Ann's Rangers for Central FC in January. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago forward Hector Sam (right) left St Ann’s Rangers for Central FC in January.
(Courtesy Wired868)

That “tough situation” involved losing several notable players in Hector Sam and Jason Marcano to Central FC after the fellow Pro League team appointed Terry Fenwick as coach in January.

It was the Board’s assessment of what had transpired in the second half of the just completed season, Piper noted, that led them to opt for bringing Bateau on board.  Bateau’s all-inclusive footballing curriculum vitae is seen as an asset which can serve to achieve the desired community re-integration as well as facilitate the clubs’ future focus on youth development.

“The main reason we went for Bateau,” Piper explained, “is because we want to have a better connection with the St Ann’s community that has been a bit disconnected from the club. Goalkeeper Zane Coker is the only actual St Ann’s-born player in the team, which illustrates my point.”

Photo: St Ann's Rangers goalkeeper Zane Coker (left) makes a crucial save in a TTFF FA Trophy fixture against WASA FC last season. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: St Ann’s Rangers goalkeeper Zane Coker (left) makes a crucial save in a TTFF FA Trophy fixture against WASA FC last season.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“Over the years,” he continued, “we have lost a lot of our St Ann’s-bred players such as Christon Thomas, Elijah and Josimar Belgrave and Jovan Morris so we are hoping that, with his experience, Bateau, being a St Ann’s native, can assist us in keeping some of our home-grown players as we focus next year on our youth development system that is in the top three in the TT Pro League.”

Taking up the idea of the success of the club’s youth programme, Fakoory went a little further than his Operations Director. Inviting Wired868.com to look at the club’s Under-17 and Under-15 teams which “have been dominant in the TT Pro League youth tournaments.”

“I would say that our youth programme is not simply in the top three in the Pro League,” said Fakoory, “it’s the best!”

But there is a big but.

“Our problem is that, when they reach age 16 and 17, our young players will always be tempted to go to the bigger clubs like W Connection and Caledonia AIA, who will pay them much better than we do,” he said.

“We all know the solid corporate backing that DIRECTV, Neal and Massy and the National Lottery Board gives those clubs.”

And Fakoory feels that, for the Bateau move to pay the major dividends they all think it can pay, there is at least one imperative that the club must attend to in the immediate future. He said that, if the club doesn’t meet the supporters halfway, it is too much to expect the sympathy a community team enjoys to translate into the kind of match-day support it needs.

“Our supporters will always find it difficult,” the Chairman explained, “to come and watch us if our home matches are played at Larry Gomes, Manny Ramjohn, etc.”

“When we talk about re-connecting with the community,” he ended, “we just have to get the headquarters for our home games to be in Port-of-Spain at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.”

BATEAU’S CREDENTIALS

CERTIFICATES

2011:                    C+ Coaching License KNVB (TTFF)

2010:                  Vern Gambetta Fundamental Athletic Development (Certificate of Participation)

2009:                 English FA Fitness Workshop Trinidad (Certificate of Attendance)

2006:                 English FA Fitness Workshop (Coaching Certificate)

2003:                 T&T Football Referees’ Association (Certificate of Achievement – Grade A)

1995:                   T&T Defence Force Diploma in Physical Training

1992:                   FIFA Futuro II Course – Centre of Excellence

 

ASSIGNMENTS

2011-2012:          San Juan Jabloteh reserve team coach and professional team assistant coach

2011:                        T&T National Under-23 team trainer

2009-2011:         T&T National Under-20 team trainer

2003-2010:        Jabloteh trainer

2003 – 2007:   T&T National Under-17 trainer

1995-2003:       (Superstar) Rangers trainer

About Colin Benjamin

Colin Benjamin is a former freelance writer for the Trinidad Newsday newspaper and Guyana Stabroek News.

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