Zoran Vranes proud but demands further Central improvement

Central FC captain Sean de Silva, proudly collects the Rawle Fletcher Trophy (named after fallen Defence Force footballer Rawle Fletcher) on behalf of his team from Christopher Edmond, Digicel (Trinidad and Tobago) sponsorship officer, prior to defeating St. Ann’s Rangers 4-1 in their Round Two Match Day One, Digicel Pro League fixture on January 16 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.  Second from left is Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes accompanying his players in the background, while TT Pro League general secretary Julia Baptiste, front left, and Deann Fletcher, the sister of fallen Defence Force player Rawle Fletcher, joined in for the photo call.
Monday 19 January 2015

While short-term goals — to win domestic titles — are being achieved, the main goals of Central FC are still some distance away according to head coach Zoran Vranes, who remains resolute despite early achievements.

Central, under Vranes' reign this season, have already captured the 2014 First Citizens Cup, one of two titles captured last season by former coach, Englishman Terry Fenwick, and most recently, the inaugural Rawle Fletcher Trophy as winners of Round One in the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League (DPL).

“We were missing six to seven players who were starting players last season and although it was difficult in motivating players we were still able to achieve what we did,” said Vranes, who qualified Trinidad and Tobago to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup 2009 in Egypt.

Although admitting to difficulty in getting his players to approach the game professionally, on and off the field, Vranes said he is proud of recent improvements and accomplishments, but firmly believes Central can become even better towards the club’s ultimate goal to become one of the best teams in the region and CONCACAF contender.

Vranes added, “When I came here my goals were to keep Central on top, win some trophies and maybe take second position in the league and look for the opportunity for on top.

“But the major goal is to establish the club as one of the best (in the region) and to be able to compete at the CONCACAF level.”

Last season, under the charge of Fenwick, the “Couva Sharks” finished runners-up behind league champions DIRECTV W Connection, as both Couva clubs qualified to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2015, set to begin in March, and serves as the qualifying tournament towards the CONCACAF Champions League.

“I am not fully satisfied yet because we are still looking for better play,” continued the Central FC coach. “But I expect now we are in a better position for improvement with the addition of some very high quality players. The competition in the team is very high now because they must work hard for starting positions and for places in the 18-man squad.

“I also expect my job to become easier now with players who are ready and willing to play. So it’s up to them to step up. Our goal is to become better of course. We want be the champions of Caribbean then on to our next goal, which is the main goal, to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League and to play well at that level.”

Vranes’ ambitions received a confidence booster with a host of January transfer window acquisitions.

Last season’s top performers Willis Plaza, Rundell Winchester, Jamal Jack and Elton John have all returned during the transfer window, while defenders Uriah Bentick and Kevon Villaroel are new signings along with Jamaican international defender Upston Edwards.

Edwards, a 25-year-old left back, joins Central on loan from Jamaican club Portmore United until the end of the season.

Central also welcomes the return of pre-season signing Michael Yaw Darko. The 24-year-old Ghanaian attacking midfielder returns to Vranes’ squad from a loan stint at Cunupia FC.

The new additions joins a roster that already includes the likes of Marvin Oliver, Ataulla Guerra, Jason Marcano, Sean de Silva, Nathaniel Garcia, Akeem Benjamin, goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, Kaydion Gabriel, Darren Mitchell, Jean-Luc Rochford, Dwight Quintero, Leston Paul and Elijah Manners.

But with a loaded roster, Central have resorted to sending young talents Nicholas Dillon, Kevon Gaddard, Seon Thomas and Shaquille Williams on loan at St. Ann’s Rangers, in an effort to give the quartet more playing time than they would have received at the “Couva Sharks” ahead of next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.

“We’ve actually built a team for CONCACAF,” said Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison. “We have all intentions of qualifying for CONCACAF.”

Domestically, Central FC (6-2-1, 20 points) continues to lead the Digicel Pro League standings, three points clear of defending champions and second positioned DIRECTV W Connection (5-2-1, 17 points), who they must face in Round Two Match Day on Friday 23 January from 8 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

While admitting that his new additions should give Central an edge over other teams in the DPL, Vranes remains on full guard, especially against Couva-rivals W Connection.

“We should have some advantage now, not a lot, but some advantage. But there are still teams like W Connection firstly, and then teams like North East Stars and Defence Force who are tough teams. We expect every team will play very hard against us, which is normal, so we must be very serious about each game that we play,” ended Vranes.

Round Two Match Day Two will kick off from 6 pm at the Ato Boldon on Friday 23 January when fourth placed North East Stars (4-2-3, 14 points) and fifth placed Point Fortin Civic (3-2-4, 11 points) do battle.

The action will continue on Sunday 25 January at the very same Couva venue with rock-bottom St. Ann’s Rangers (0-1-8, 1 point) up against seventh positioned Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh (2-4-3, 10 points) from 4 pm. Then from 6 pm, eight placed Police FC (2-4-3, 10 points) and third placed Defence Force (5-1-3, 16 points) will reignite their rivalry in the battle of the armed forces, while sixth placed Caledonia (3-2-4, 11 points) sits out on the bye.