Vranes: 'We were already champions when I left'

Proud display. Central FC players, from left to right, Sean de Silva, Kaydion Gabriel, Jason Marcano and Darren Mitchell pose for a photo with their 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League and Kevon Carter (Round Three) titles. (Photo: Allan V. Crane / www.ttproleague.com)
Thursday 30 April 2015

Zoran Vranes was more than happy to celebrate the Digicel Pro League 2014-2015 title with coach Terry Fenwick on Tuesday night but believes Central FC were already the champions when his England replacement took over last month, with three league matches left.

Central FC, who lead the standings for nearly all of this season, hoisted their maiden league trophy with 55 points, six points clear of last season’s winners and bitter Couva rivals W Connection (49 pointso), after completing their final match of the campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over mid-table North East Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

“I am very pleased,” said an elated Vranes, who had joined Fenwick in the technical area during stoppage to celebrate the championship. “I think we deserved it. When I left the team we were already champions… almost, with three points in front and a better goal difference. We were always in the top. Definitely we were best this season winning the first leg (Rawle Fletcher Cup), second leg (Akeem Adams Cup) and third leg (Kevon Carter Cup) along the way.”
Central FC technical director of Youth and Women’s football, Zoran Vranes. (Photo: www.ttproleague.com)
The 64-year-old Yugoslavia-born Vranes, was signed Central ahead of pre-season last July as a replacement for former England international Fenwick, who had signed a three-year contract with Belgium lower league side CS Vise after steering the “Couva Sharks” to a second place finish behind Connection last season.

But less than a year into his contract at Vise, Fenwick, a three-time Pro League winning coach with former club San Juan Jabloteh, was forced to following Trinidadian players Willis Plaza, Rundell Winchester, Elton John and Kevon Villaroel back to the twin-island republic after the Belgium went broke.

Fenwick, who led Central to last season’s First Citizens Cup and Lucozade Sport Goal Shield titles, and also qualified the team for the 2015 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, the CONCACAF Champions League qualifier tournament, was later reinstated as coach of the “Couva Sharks” in late March, while Vranes was shifted to the role of technical director of Youth and Women’s football, a position previously held by George Romano, who quit the position following a stroke in February.

“A great job has been done here,” exclaimed Fenwick after securing the league title on Tuesday night. “…but first and foremost I’d like to thank Vranes. The reason we brought him down from the stands is because he is very much a big part of this. He deserves it. He has been here for the long period of the season. But I came in and got it over the line in the end.”

Upon Fenwick’s return, Central were leading the table with 46 points from 21 matches, three points ahead of W Connection, who had 43 points from 20 matches.

Vranes had also led the “Couva Sharks” to this season’s First Citizens Cup and to the inaugural Rawle Fletcher (Round One) and Akeem Adams (Round Two) trophies, while also qualifying the club for the 2016 Caribbean Club Championship, along with W Connection. Vranes was, this month, named Trinidad and Tobago U23 head coach, for the upcoming Pan American Games and Olympic 2016 qualifiers.

While during the 55-year-old Fenwick’s return, Central are boasting a five-match winning streak in all competitions.

Fenwick guided Central to 3-0 and 5-2 wins over San Juan Jabloteh and Point Fortin Civic respectively in the league before Tuesday’s title deciding victory. He also led the “Couva Sharks” to 2-0 and 3-1 wins over Surimane powerhouse Inter Moengotapoe and Guyana’s top team Alpha United, respectively, in the Group stage of the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship this month to set up a semi-final meeting with rivals W Connection in the CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers on May 22.

On Tuesday night, TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene commended the level of competitiveness showcased in the Digicel Pro League over the last eight months which eventually led to the crowning on the final day, in the case of Central. He said the level of competitiveness, even from teams occupying positions 3 to 8, augurs well for the league “because at any given day, they could spring some surprises and we can have results that were not predictable, and that’s a great fillip for the league.

“As well as our two teams have qualified for the semi-finals of the CFU and we hope that they go on and qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, which again will assist the Pro League in building the brand, making us more popular and giving us better rankings internationally.”

The remaining Digicel Pro League matches will roll out within the coming days, with third place finishers Defence Force against cellar placed St. Ann’s Rangers from 6 pm on Friday 1 May at the Hasely Crawford Stadium followed by Jabloteh against W Connection from 8 pm.

On Saturday 2 May, North East Stars will meet Caledonia AIA from 4 pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium, while Point Fortin Civic and Police FC will contest each other from 8 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday 5 May, two hours after Caledonia and Rangers meet in the qualifier match of the 2015 Digicel Pro Bowl, carded for the month of May. W Connection are the defending Pro Bowl champions.