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Sharks tale: Central FC scale Stars for maiden Pro League title

Central FC’s coronation as Trinidad and Tobago Pro League champions was, in retrospect, written in the Stars.

Last night, at approximately 9.52 pm, the noisy upstarts had wrestled power of the local top flight after a 2-1 win over North East Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium ensured that the “Couva Sharks” could not be caught by bitter cross-town rivals, DIRECTV W Connection.

“… Q-R-S-T-U-V,” sang the ‘Central choir’, “W Connection can’t beat we!”

Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene after their 2-1 win over North East Stars last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene after their 2-1 win over North East Stars last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Earlier yesterday evening, Connection laboured to a 2-1 win over Police FC, courtesy a Hashim Arcia double, that was never going to be enough to pressure the leaders. There is one round of Pro League matches remaining and Central, who will be on a bye, were three points clear with a 15-goal better differential before kick off last night.

Connection might not remember when they too were the ambitious outsiders who were treated with suspicion and disdain by the establishment. The “Savonetta Boys” joined the then PFL in 1999 with their business-like air that included shirt, tie and slacks for players on match day.

Opponents muttered that at least they would win the prize for best dressed. By Connection’s second season, they were champions.

Central took three years but, as they pressed W Connection to the finish line in the 2013/14 season, it always seemed a matter of when not if the “Sharks”—the brainchild of current Sport Minister Brent Sancho and his advisor Kevin Harrison—would eventually have their day in the sun.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Sport Minister and Senator Brent Sancho. Sancho is the former Central FC chairman. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Sport Minister and Senator Brent Sancho.
Sancho is the former Central FC chairman.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

Last season, Central fell from the skies at the business end of the season after a Trevin Caesar double led Stars to a 2-1 triumph over the Sharks. And the Sangre Grande-based team threatened to be spoilers again this term.

Central coach Terry Fenwick once employed Stars coach Angus Eve as a player and then assistant coach at San Juan Jabloteh and, although there is no love lost between the pair, their contests are always intriguing, passive-aggressive tactical contests played out at pace.

Central used seven players from their Jabloteh team last night. Stars played five.

Eve’s troops, lined up in his traditional 4-5-1 shape, would try to dictate the flow of the match without the ball by shutting down space for opponents and picking their pockets as they tried to squeeze through narrow alleys.

Fenwick tried to counter his former student’s plans from kick off by using an unusual 3-6-1 formation which overloaded the midfield with four central players and two wingbacks while three defenders stood guard over lone Stars defender-cum-striker Kennedy Hinkson.

Photo: North East Stars midfielder Kaashif Thomas (right) tries to close down Central FC's Sean De Silva (centre) while Ataulla Guerra looks on. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: North East Stars midfielder Kaashif Thomas (right) tries to close down Central FC’s Sean De Silva (centre) while Ataulla Guerra looks on.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Within four minutes, Eve was chuckling as Stars went ahead in trademark fashion.

The “Boys from Ojoe Road” won possession midway in their own half of the field and immediately counted as 19-year-old midfielder Neveal Hackshaw hared up the right flank to collect behind Central defender Keion Goodridge.

Goodridge, who is rarely shy to apply brute force, lowered his shoulder into the teenaged “Soca Warrior” and bounced off. And Central and Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was just as powerless and red-faced as Hackshaw produced a precise finish at his near post.

It was only Hackshaw’s second league goal of the season.

Stars goalkeeper Cleon John made two fine saves from Jamal Jack and Central captain Leston Paul to preserve the advantage at half time. But, by the hour mark, the difference in approach by the coaches was unmistakable.

Photo: Central FC substitute Jason Marcano (right) takes on North East Stars substitute Jeromie Williams during Pro League action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC substitute Jason Marcano (right) takes on North East Stars substitute Jeromie Williams during Pro League action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Fenwick, an ex-England World Cup defender, is at his best when his team is driving at an opponent. Eve, Trinidad and Tobago’s most capped outfield player and a fine attacker in his hey-day, is more reactionary.

But, without former quality strikers like Cornell Glen and Caesar, Eve simply did not have the arsenal to play to his preferred mode. And, unlike Fenwick, he could not find a Plan B.

It is true that Stars do not have the budget and depth of Central. But their tally of 24 goals this season is testimony to Eve’s problems this season. Only St Ann’s Rangers have scored less times this term.

By the 63rd minute, Fenwick was on his second reshuffle with a back four and a diamond-shaped midfield with Willis Plaza introduced upfront and Ataulla Guerra given the freedom of the park. Eve replaced his lone front-man, Hinkson, with defender Dwane James who was used in the ‘number 10’ role to press evergreen Central substitute and central midfielder Marvin Oliver.

But there was no stopping the tide.

Photo: Central FC coach Terry Fenwick gestures during his team's final Pro League contest. North East Stars coach Angus Eve is in the foreground. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC coach Terry Fenwick gestures during his team’s final Pro League contest.
North East Stars coach Angus Eve is in the foreground.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In the 68th minute, Central drew level as Plaza teed up Guerra who casually waited for the opening before stroking his shot past defender Keryn Navarro and beyond opposing custodian, John.

Eve responded, two minutes later, by replacing Hackshaw with another midfield hardman, Jeromie “Butters” Williams in an attempt to stem the flow rather than seek out Central’s vulnerabilities.

And, in the 87th minute, the Sharks completed the turnaround in fine style as Plaza spun away from Navarro and glided inside the penalty area before beating John with a thumping left footed finish into the corner.

It was a fitting exclamation mark for Central whose 63 goals were 12 more than Connection managed last season and the most by a Pro League winner since Connection scored 69 times in 23 league games back in 2005. The Pro League record, incidentally, remains 113 goals from 36 games by Ricky Hill’s Jabloteh in 2003/04.

The Central Choir was in full flight by then and Fenwick spent the closing minutes trying to stage-manage a tribute to his predecessor Zoran Vranes, who led the Sharks for much of the season before being bizarrely replaced by the Englishman.

Photo: Former Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes is now in charge of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes is now in charge of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Ever the gentleman, Vranes, a former Yugoslavia National Under-23 Team player, joined Fenwick at the touchline and the two linked arms and strode to the edge of the technical area as Central stroked the ball around.

Fourth official Cecile Hinds was in no mood for their love connection and spoiled the party by pointedly reminding Fenwick that only one person was allowed to stand in the technical area at any given time.

The noble but clumsy gesture arguably fit a team that irked opponents with its aggressive marketing and self-promotion in the way Connection once grated rivals with ties and cut-price Brazilians.

The Savonetta Boys proved there was much more to them than that and, no doubt, Central hope to do the same.

Paul, who joined Central from Super League outfit Guaya United in January 2014, was beaming after the final whistle.

“First, I must thank God (because) without God nothing is possible,” said Paul, who was appointed team captain by Vranes. “I am overwhelmed… We dug deep. It was a tough, long season but we stuck together and got the results we wanted and won the trophy.”

Photo: Central FC captain Leston Paul (right) holds the Akeem Adams trophy for winning the final round. Teammate Ataulla Guerra (centre) lifts the Pro League trophy while league CEO Dexter Skeene looks on. (Courtesy Alllan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC captain Leston Paul (right) holds the Akeem Adams trophy for winning the final round.
Teammate Ataulla Guerra (centre) lifts the Pro League trophy while league CEO Dexter Skeene looks on.
(Courtesy Alllan V Crane/Wired868)

The 39-year-old Oliver is a former Pro League champion with Jabloteh but was on Central’s first team list, three years ago. When the Sharks trailed Stars, Fenwick presumably accepted that the lanky playmaker should have been on the field and promptly inserted him.

“I think this is the most complete team I’ve been on and the feeling is just so sweet,” Oliver told Wired868. “With all the dramas and everything that happened, it just feels good to be here now… I’ve seen the guys like Ataulla and (Plaza and the rest) when they were teenagers and they are grown men now.

“I saw the steps they took towards maturity and you saw that tonight with their finish and ball movement and so on. I am really proud of them.”

Central’s first place prize is $1 million although Connection are still waiting on their cheque from last season. These two teams would probably fight to the death over a dinner mint though.

With the Pro League title wrapped up, Central are now turning attention to the 2014 Caribbean Club Championship. On May 22, the Sharks will face Connection in the Caribbean semifinals at the same Couva venue.

Photo: W Connection goal scorer Jerrel Britto (left) and teammate Shahdon Winchester celebrate a goal against the Guyana Defence Force in Caribbean Club Championship action. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection goal scorer Jerrel Britto (left) and teammate Shahdon Winchester celebrate a goal against the Guyana Defence Force in Caribbean Club Championship action.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

“It will be an honour to be champions of the Caribbean,” said Oliver. “Just the other day, I saw we were ranked 182 in CONCACAF and Connection (were) 160. Before I finish playing, I would like to see us reach the top 100 in CONCACAF.”

The ‘Couva Clasico’ is about to go regional.

(Teams)

Central FC (3-4-2-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 12.Jamal Jack, 5.Akeem Benjamin, 3.Keion Goodridge; 15.Kaydion Gabriel (7.Jason Marcano 72), 2.Elton John, 6.Leston Paul (captain), 11.Darren Mitchell (10.Marvin Oliver 46); 45.Ataulla Guerra, 8.Sean De Silva; 99.Dwight Quintero (33.Willis Plaza 46).

Unused substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 4.Uriah Bentick, 17.Marcelle Francois, 19.Nathaniel Garcia.

Coach: Terry Fenwick

 

North East Stars (4-2-3-1): 22.Cleon John (GK); 25.Keryn Navarro (captain), 5.Aquil Selby, 15.Glenton Wolfe, 38.Jesus Perez; 44.Keon Joseph, 12.Jayson Joseph; 18.Kaashif Thomas (9.Xae Pierre De Four 89), 41.Neveal Hackshaw (6.Jeromie Williams 70), 10.Keron Cummings; 23.Kennedy Hinkson (14.Dwane James 63).

Unused substitutes: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 26.Zavion Navarro, 35.Jordan Devonish, 50.Shaquille Thomas,

Coach: Angus Eve

 

Referee: Dave Daniel

Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (left) celebrates after scoring the decisive goal against North East Stars last night. Looking on are Stars goalkeeper Cleon John (centre) and Keryn Navarro. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (left) celebrates after scoring the decisive goal against North East Stars last night.
Looking on are Stars goalkeeper Cleon John (centre) and Keryn Navarro.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Pro League results

(Apr 28)

W Connection 2 (Hashim Arcia 44, 88), Police FC 1 (Makesi Lewis 7) at Couva;

Central FC 2 (Ataulla Guerra 68, Willis Plaza 87), North East Stars 1 (Neveal Hackshaw 4) at Couva.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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90 comments

  1. Here’s the bottom line. No sides taken here. But if this was reverse. It would have been a bigger deal! If a white man says something relatively racist it’s front news. So it’s not acceptable either way. Trinidad or not!

  2. Gordon Pierre I understand your point about foreigners. However, the massa reference may not feel racial to you, but I could certainly do without it. Also, I’m sure that Oreo is not meant as a compliment. I’m certain that there are white people who can’t understand why Danni Alves made videos about bananas, but we know the racist connotations there. Maybe T&T is different, but other countries feel differently. This is a news item from USA… Rush Limbaugh hurled a racist comment towards embattled New York Governor David Paterson on his radio show Tuesday.
    Discussing the resignation of Rep. Eric Massa and the possibility that Paterson would appoint his replacement or call a special election, Limbaugh invoked Massa’s last name in a reference to slavemasters, also known as “massas.”

  3. Kevin locals whether real or imagine feel that foreigners get an unfair advantage when it comes to opportunity and resources so the massa reference is not racial but in fact a reference of a percieved injustise whether justified or not!! For u to launch an anti-racism campaign is very emotive and trivialises a very serious issue!! But guess u as d minister advisor will know better than me!! Tongue in cheek1

  4. Gordon Pierre can you explain a little more please? You say provocation is a crime? Where is the provocation? My friend, in most civilised countries, racism is a crime. We saw recently how an Indian guy was front page news for posting racist comments. So I, as a white man should sit back and take UNPROVOKED racism? Yes. you called for people to take it down, but hiding racism after the fact does not solve the underlying issue. You can’t unshoot somebody! If those perpertrators posted an apology, perhaps you could let this slide, but they haven’t. I have spent many years in the UK fighting racism against black people and other people of colour. Now I should sit back and ignore this? Why?

  5. This anti-racism campaign is ingenuine and devalves a great cause! Lets bring a sense of level headedness to this issue

  6. Kevin my friend provocation is a crime!! After i beg for ppl to take it down and applaud d league champions u have started to incite and spin persons comments and opinions

  7. Central used that last season too Roneil K Walcott. Although was like Plan B for Fenwick while it was definitely Plan A under Vranes.
    In fact, I think Vranes has favored that system since 1995!

  8. One Game, One Community, One Nation

  9. I think Vranes’ use of the ‘3 at the back system’ with the two wing-backs Gabriel and Mitchell really made Central different class for most of the season.

  10. Dion Sousa” Well said travis a lot of people living in denial or just plain nieve about our Oreo Minister of Sport he pretends 2 be some white knight when we all know he is a lying deceitful under handed crook just like the new managing director and the other lackies at the club anybody who associates with the massa has no class and is the same as him your never see a corbeaux and a parrot liming figure it out” Is this the type of racism that the Pro League condones? Massa? Dion Sousa are you serious? You act for as a agent for the kids and this is the kind of conversation to put out there.

    That’s disgraceful… that speaks volumes about you .

  11. When the Koreans was bidding to host the 2002 World Cup along with Japan their Football Association organized a tournament with teams that participated in their Korean leagues and we were invited the name of my team then was Trinidad and Tobago Internationals and if you didn’t have a professional finish eh, you couldn’t make my team because I had no time to teach no player how to pass, trap, or play the game, so I rounds up my troops and headed to Queens N.Y. to this tournament when we got there I couldn’t believe what I saw with my eyes they were televising the tournament back to their country and this is when I realized that these folks wasn’t sticking eh, they mean’t real business well all I told my players that this was their thing and we will have fun and if we didn’t win well no big deal. Well to make a long story short we won all our games and ended up in the final, which we also won it was amazing it was only then I realized who I had in my presence and how he never like to loose and after his first outing he went on to win many more tournaments leading his troops and still today the Haitains will always ask me how he is doing it is really unfortunate that other players like himself, Irasto Knights, Kerwhyn “Hardest” Jemmot, Kerwhin “PaPa” Imannuel Andre Legendre, Arnold Dwarika and there are many more players like themselves that should have made it on the World Stage and make plenty millions of monies but didn’t because of the lack of the most important thing that many of our players are still lacking today and that is the ‘Professional Discipline/ Attitude” even recently while watching the new show “Field of Dreams” hosted by Steve David I heard Leroy Deleon and Steve David said that they didn’t want to leave our sweet country to go abroad and play no professional football and I said to myself WOW that is the same thing that some of our players today are saying because of the love that they have for our sweet country and the culture that they don’t want to leave. Them really good yes.

  12. Don’t forget Ross Russell. Considering that he’s had a small talent pool to select from, his results were excellent!

  13. Zoran Vranes took a Trinidad team to a World Youth Cup. That speaks for itself. And I do think he would have taken Central to the title. But the stars were not written that way. It isn’t entirely Vranes’ fault and it isn’t Fenwick’s either.

  14. Marvin Oliver is a Pro League legend for sure.
    Otherwise, the Pro League’s two most successful coaches are Stuart Charles-Fevrier and Terry Fenwick. Angus Eve and Travis Mulraine are two very promising young coaches.
    And I honestly believe that even though I speak very little to Angus.
    I also think Keith Jeffrey has shown signs that he can be a force to be reckoned with. Reynold Carrington and Derek King also have great promise.
    I hope all these people continue to lift football despite the tensions that are bound to be there in any professional industry.

  15. Lasana lets congratulate the sharks and close this thread before i have to visit my friend them in jail!!! Lol the thread was revealing and entertaining tho! But lets remember to acknowledge the good work done by the central players especially grandpa Oliver! Lol

  16. And the first time when I heard about Coach Terence William Fenwick eh I googled his name and to my astonishment eh, I saw where it stated that he did some kinda under hand thing in England eh, well we call it con man thing in our sweet country eh, so I said to my self well he has come to the right country yes because it is only ah set of con man corrupted things that goes on in our sweet country and I don’t see no white folks, nor syrians, nor politicians nor BIG FISH and them making any jail time in our sweet country Them really good yes.

  17. The fella who was the Coach of ASL back in the days eh he was from my greatest football country in the universe Brazil eh and the man was a fisher man yes, and he got so much respect until Sammy Lewellyn and Stuart Charles Fevrier took over the Coaching when they realized that the fella didn’t have a clue steuuppsss. Them really good yes.

  18. you see in America n Europe we would never get the top jobs so a national will always want to make a mark back home but sometimes you have to turn your back on home

  19. And that was the same thing the Coach Earl “Spiderman” Carter went through with Jabolteh he never got what he asked for to be successful at the club and I warned him about that when he had decided to leave his good job in the America to pursue that eh, but he didn’t listen to me nah and he found out the had way. Them really good yes.

  20. o and Lass ,Vranes is a class act ,good man i have absolutely no problem with him just so you know

  21. point taken Lass my issue is really with Sancho as an ex team mate. that he could operate so but i learn not to expect much from mankind ,especially politicians.

  22. Travis your point on with your comments I talk 2 players daily and they look at me like I am some joker even after I have proven myself but let a white man come and say the same things to them they hurry 2 sign and that same white man sell them dreams and ruin their careers but they never appreciate their own

  23. I’m cool with the rivalry and behind doors revelations and buss mark and whatever. But you know I’m consistent in stopping racial references whether they be coolie, nigger or massa.

  24. Some people prefer foreign above local always. But the problem there is with the employer and not the employee.
    I’m fine with argument as to whether Fenwick is a good coach or not. You can point to incidents like that and he can point to his trophies. All that in it.
    But Fenwick isn’t a slave owner. I don’t feel the massa references are necessary in a talk about the Pro League title.
    We would be horrified if we heard white English coaches talking about Dennis Lawrence that way.

  25. anyways guys i have exams soon so i can have a plan b until i could raise $400,000 to buy a franchise in d Pro League and dominate with my invicible brand. Anybody who willing to lend me that sum feel free to inbox me,peace n blessings not to the English tho ,LOL

  26. just got home a while ago from school so i will quickly address your comments.
    Lass the REALITY of our football is that a white coach from Europe always gets all the resources he wants and needs Fenwick package’ at Jabloteh was close to 100,000 when CL Financial was in their heyday ,never won a SINGLE game at the CONCACAF Level,the first staff to qualify Jabloteh for the group stages was Earl Jean and myself as player coach,and that’s when ALL the money dried up.
    Prince I have no problem with clubs having money and buying the best ,I was just pointing out that some coaches can only win in IDEAL circumstances, for me they’re not to be feted.

  27. …For Real…wastage…pure wastage Travis Mulraine…and yet still no work was done to justify handing over that huge sum of money…SMH

  28. its sad when a minister could give a man 34 million who never kick a lime in he life ,that money could run 10 pro league clubs for a decade or train athletes, boxers, netballers you name it

  29. ….I think that is the bravest…boldest way that those comments could have been made Travis Mulraine…and I know your comments are based on your experiences and what you see happening…and not happening in T&T club football

  30. Anybody who believe that shit is a real stupid person there are 2 laws and rules for the haves and have nots

  31. Stefano Monti nobody ain t hating or envious, just dealing with the facts and injustices meeted out to local coaches by the establishment, I am a revolutionary and will always speak out ,who vex loss. Fenwick is a crap coach in my opinion, no where close to stuarty or jamaal but he white and in Trinidad we still give foreigners the Royal treatment, we ll see how the team fares in the CONCACAF League.

  32. you mean every creed and race DON’T have an equal place.

  33. ….You could be right Travis Mulraine…”Every creed and race has an equal place”

  34. hahaha like you is ah trini now. mr advisor ,well you should know that those words are just that, words. I often pause whenever and do not sing that part of the anthem,because it is a joke.

  35. You said it mark anthony scott that’s why people have a problem with me cause I am hardcore and I call it as I see it thank god we met levi last year all now he wasting time in this stupid ass pfl making small money getting kick and sitting on a bench while watching a bunch of goats play in front of him instead he is off to top european football with AZ Alkmaar and on his way 2 becoming a star in holland

  36. ….Don’t be afraid of upsetting some people Earl Mango Pierre…But speak your mind

  37. …That is the problem with our sweet country…We Are Afraid Of Speaking the TRUTH Earl Mango Pierre…and you of all persons has been an advocate of speaking the TRUTH…Fear Not What Others May Think Or Say…you Cannot Justify Wrongdoing

  38. Mark Anthony Scott not me nah I doh want to get any protocol letter nah for exposing the TRUTH because some folks really cannot handle it. Them really good yes.