Former National striker and current Senior Men’s team assistant coach Stern John is not getting carried away but believes that the members of Central FC deserve credit for their efforts in pulling off two back to back wins in Santo Domingo to advance to the final phase of the Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship.
After suffering a 2-0 loss to Portmore United in their opening encounter last week, HydroTech Central FC were left with a daunting tasking of securing victories in their remaining two matches to stand a chance of staying alive in the competition. And the clubs recent history was not on their side as the run of results in the 2017 Pro League season did not favour the Central Sharks.
But John and the rest of the club’s management and technical staff stuck together and were able to guide the side through some form of transformation over the past few weeks leading to a 3-0 win over Racing of Haiti and a 1-0 win on Sunday over Dominican Republic side Atlantico FC.
“This is a massive win for the club. When we first started preparation for this tournament which was about a month ago, my main concern was putting a team together to compete. We were in our off season and my main concern was getting the boys up to a decent fitness level so that we could at least come and compete. The players worked their socks off to get to this point and they deserved a lot of credit for the results,”John told TTFA Media.
“It’s been a while that we’ve seen a Trinidad and Tobago team play away from home with that kind of desire to fight and come away with results when we needed it in this type of situation. The home team was pretty decent and made it difficult for us up until the final whistle,” the former Birmingham City and Sunderland striker noted.
“We lost the first match but then we rallied together as a team and we came back and won the second game. Then we knew we had it in us to get the result in the final game. We had a lot of guys who were sick with some of the guys suffering from food poisoning and stomach virus. So they showed a lot of character to put that aside and come out and grind out the results in the last two games,” John added.
John took over head coach duties in 2017 after taking up the post as assistant coach to Dennis Lawrence on the national team earlier in the year.
“For me as head coach at this level for the first time, I was buzzing with the performance and to see the players work together and play for each other. Credit also has to go to some of the senior players such as Carlyle Mitchell who was maybe the MVP of the tournament and Densill Theobald as well as the youngster Rhondell Gibson who stepped in and did a job for us. The whole atmosphere around the club was really good and that’s a good sign for us.
“The key factor for us winning the game against Atlantico was showing character because we had a number of players really sick and even vomiting a couple hours before the game. I knew we had the quality to compete at this level but it was a good feeling to see the players digging deep.
“We had young goalkeeper Montell Joseph in goal for us. He came in as a boy and now he is leaving as a man. He made a fantastic save on the penalty to keep us in the tournament,” John continued. Joseph is an ex-T&T Under 23 and Under 20 custodian.
Central FC now joins and Portmore United and Group A winner Club Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic) and runner-up Arnett Gardens (Jamaica) in the Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship finals, with the champion gaining a place in the 2019 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, while the runner-up and third place finishers will qualify for the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF League. The date and venue of that tournament will be announced in due course.
The fourth-place side will face the winner of the Tier 2 tournament — Caribbean Club Shield — in a playoff to determine the third club that will represent the Caribbean in the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF League.