Stern John commits to Central; legendary T&T striker chase maiden title as coach in the form of the Caribbean Club Championship

Photo: Ex-England Premier League footballer and current Central FC head coach Stern John, left, presents Lollabee Group director Sheldon Stephen with a Couva Sharks’ game jersey during a photocall on Jan. 31, 2018 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.

Stern John has renewed his commitment to Central FC with his target, his maiden trophy as head coach in the form of the 2018 Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship, the qualifier tournament to the Concacaf Champions League and Concacaf League.

Central, back-to-back Caribbean champions of 2015 and 2016, are set to travel to the Dominican Republic on Sunday where they must face Jamaica’s Portmore United (Feb. 7), Haiti’s Racing FC (Feb. 9) and hosts Atlantico (Feb. 11) in Group B.

The top two teams will advance to the Caribbean final round in May where they will compete with the top two teams of Group A currently being contested in Trinidad. Hosts W Connection are bottom of the group after losing 1-0 to Haiti’s Real Hope Academy (3 points), while Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens and Dominican Republic’s Atletico Pantoja are tied on a point after their goalless draw on Wednesday’s opening night. All four clubs return to action on Friday.

Central will unveil their 20-man squad for the trip to the Dominican Republic on Friday and could include former Trinidad and Tobago standouts such as Carlyle Mitchell and Densill Theobald as well as the return of midfielders Darren Mitchell and Keron Cummings.

And through the financial support of companies such as Guayaguayare-based Hydro Tech and Lollabee Group, the Couva Sharksbelieve the shot at lifting a third Caribbean crown is attainable.

“We want to win,” John told reporters during a brief media presentation to unveil Lollabee Group as a part sponsor of Central’s 2018 Caribbean campaign. “I think the team we have put together [capable] of the task.”


John, also an assistant coach with the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team, took over as head coach of the strugglingCouva Sharks last September – midway through the 2017 season – after serving as an assistant to Dale Saunders who left due to financial woes faced by the club.


Months earlier, battling through their financial struggles the Couva Sharks had finished fourth at the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship which was won by debutants Cibao FC of Dominican Republic. San Juan Jabloteh finished runners-up losing 1-0 in the final after Jamaica’s Portmore United secured a third-place finish against Central.

Saunders’ later departure had followed an exodus of players and staff and by the end of the 2017 campaign, the Couva Sharks — a side that had previously won three consecutive Pro League championships — finished second-from-bottom on the ten-team domestic table.

Central FC’s managing director Brent Sancho reiterated that all clubs in the Pro League had been affected by the lack of financial support and that the two-time Caribbean champions weren't immune to the current economic climate.

“Stern had a real baptism of fire last season when he stepped up to take his first head coach position,” said Sancho.


Sancho, a teammate of John at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, explained, “The lack of resources left Stern with very little to choose from when selecting his team [last season].

“[Now] Stern [has showed] his loyalty to those who played through (last season’s) difficult time by offering opportunities to 90 percent of last year’s squad and staff. Those players will [now] be supplemented by some very talented and experienced players. As in 2016, when we won our second Caribbean Club Championship, we are aiming for a 100 percent Trini’ squad – at least for the trip to Dominican Republic.”
Photo: Lollabee Group director Sheldon Stephen, second from right, presents Central FC head coach Stern John with a sponsorship cheque of TT$20,000 during a photocall on Jan. 31, 2018 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain. Also in the photo are returning Central midfielders Keron Cummings, far left, and Darren ‘Chucky’ Mitchell.
“It’s a little better (now),” agreed John, T&T’s all-time leading scorer and ex-Sunderland and Birmingham forward.

Lollabee Group director Sheldon Stephen expressed delight to be part of Central’s Caribbean campaign and by extension the sport of football. 

Stephen said his company would also look at possibly extending its relationship with the Couva Sharks into the domestic Pro League season to promote perhaps the company’s My Fit Menu, an affordable meal order service.

“All our concentration is on the Caribbean Club Championship,” continued John. The Central coach says his task involves gelling his new bunch in time for next week’s challenges in Dominican Republic.


“The most important thing is getting the guys to play together,” he said. “[And] understanding what the manager, I, (sic) want as a team, and hopefully we can go (on to quality) for the second round. As I’ve said, we want to win the tournament.”

Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship 2018
Full schedule and results
Group A (Trinidad)
Wednesday 31 January 2018
Club Atletico Pantoja 0 vs Arnett Gardens 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium;

W Connection 0 vs Real Hope Football Academy 1 (Jeudy Johnson 2’), at Ato Boldon Stadium.

Upcoming matches
Friday, February 2, 2018        
Real Hope FA (HAI) v Club Atletico Pantoja (DOM), 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad;

W Connection FC (T&T) v Arnett Gardens FC (JAM), 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad.

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Arnett Gardens FC (JAM) v Real Hope FA (HAI), 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad;

W Connection FC (T&T) v Club Atletico Pantoja (DOM), 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad.

Group B (Dominican Republic)
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Central FC (T&T) v Portmore United FC (JAM), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Racing FC (HAI), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Friday, February 9, 2018    
Racing FC (HAI) v Central FC (T&T), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Portmore United FC (JAM), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Sunday, February 11, 2018
Portmore United FC (JAM) v Racing FC (HAI), 5pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic;

Atlantico FC (DOM) v Central FC (TRI), 8pm, Estadio Cibao, Santiago, Dominican Republic.