England League One outfit, Walsall FC, will face a Pro League All-Star XI from 6 pm today at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva in the second match of its Trinidad and Tobago tour, which is being hosted by Pro League club, Central FC.
Walsall landed in Tobago last Wednesday and whipped National Super League (NSL) club, Stokely Vale FC, 3-1 in an exhibition match at the Plymouth Recreation Ground on Friday.
Ben George, Jem Gordon and Kieron Morris scored for Walsall while Dominic Munchen scored a free kick for Stokely Vale.
Gordon, who plays for 1976 FC Phoenix in the Super League, was one of five triallists used by Walsall manager Dean Smith. The other four were Central players and comprised of strikers Darryl Trim and Rundell Winchester, defender Dwight Pope and striker Nicholas Dillon.
Pope and Dillon played for Shiva Boys and and Naparima College respectively in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) last season while Winchester and Trim are both Tobago-born players.
Now, Walsall will get a taste of what the Pro League has to offer as the “Saddlers” face a combined squad led by Defence Force coach Ross Russell and assisted by Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA coach Jamaal Shabazz. The rest of the Pro League technical staff includes equipment manager Devin Elcock and trainer Mark Lewis.
The Pro League playing staff is headed by last season’s top scorer Devorn Jorsling, who is one of four players from local champions, Defence Force. Goalkeeper Kevin Graham, defender Rodell Elcock and winger Ross Russell Junior are also included from the army/coast guard outfit.
North East Stars, which finished fourth last season, has seven players in the squad as Kareem Moses, Jeremie Williams, Kevon Villaroel, Elton John, Jayson Joseph, Trevin Caesar and Marcus Gomez were all selected.
The Caledonia AIA quintet of Akim Armstrong, Nathan Lewis, Nuru Muhammad, Kareem Joseph and Glenroy Samuel are also included while the remaining players are Gerrard Williams, Jomal Williams, Neil Benjamin (all DIRECTV W Connection) and Mikhail Awai (St. Ann’s Rangers).
“It’s a great opportunity for me (…) to coach a game against Walsall,” said Russell. “It’s also an opportunity for the players of the Pro League to be seen by an English team and showcase themselves to probably earn contracts…
“Our national team, which is made up of some players from the League, is in the United States for the (CONCACAF) Gold Cup, so it’s an opportunity to show the depth of the Pro League by showcasing other players.”
Walsall finished ninth in League One last season and is rebuilding its squad after selling on a few key players. Smith hopes the Trinidad and Tobago tour revitalises his squad.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the club,” Smith told English newspaper Express & Star. “We had been looking for somewhere to go on tour since the end of last season and this fits in perfectly with our schedule…
“As good as our training ground is, it’s always nice to be able to get away and spend some time in different surroundings. This experience is going to be extremely beneficial to us and hopefully those people that we meet along the way.”
Walsall will end its week-long tour on Tuesday with a 7 pm clash against Central FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. The friendly match-up will be preceded by a 5 pm women’s football contest between Central FC and Barataria Ball Players. Admission will be $30 with children under-12 at $10.
Pro League XI
Goalkeepers: Kevin Graham (Defence Force), Glenroy Samuel (Caledonia AIA);
Defenders: Nuru Muhammad, Kareem Joseph (both Caledonia AIA), Rodell Elcock (Defence Force), Kareem Moses, Kevon Villaroel, Elton John (all North East Stars);
Midfielders: Akim Armstrong (Caledonia AIA), Jeremie Williams, Jayson Joseph (both North East Stars), Mikhail Awai (St. Ann’s Rangers), Gerrard Williams, Jomal Williams (both W Connection);
Forwards: Devorn Jorsling, Ross Russell Jr (both Defence Force), Nathan Lewis (Caledonia AIA), Neil Benjamin (W Connection), Trevin Caesar, Marcus Gomez (both North East Stars).
Walsall Trinidad and Tobago tour:
Fri July 5
Walsall 3 (Ben George, Gem Gordon, Kieron Morris), Stokely Vale 1 (Dominic Munchen) at Plymouth Recreation Ground
Sun July 7
Walsall vs Pro League XI, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium
Tue July 9
Walsall vs Central FC, 7 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.