Derek King laud players over solid North East Stars start to 2017 Pro League season

Derek King (dressed in black) and his North East Stars bunch during a recent training session in Tacarigua. (Photo courtesy North East Stars)

North East Stars’ last result, a late 2-2 comeback draw against leaders W Connection on July 14, proved more than a point and five a five-game undefeated stretch for head coach Derek King.

It showcased the return of a young and talented coach to the Pro League. That’s if his four wins in as many matches—Point Fortin Civic (1-0), Defence Force (2-1), Morvant Caledonia United (1-0) and St. Ann’s Rangers (2-1)—prior to the Connection visit weren’t convincing enough.

Connection had taken a two-goal first half cushion in Couva but the Stars, following tactical changes by King, rebounded late with a goal each from pre-season signings Jameel Neptune and Kordell Samuel to hold the Savonetta Boys—a team managed by the most successful coach in the Pro League, Stuart Charles-Fevrier—to a draw.

King, however, preferred to shower the praise on his players for the team’s best run of form of recent years which has them positioned second on the Pro League 2017 standings and tied on 13 points with leaders Connection, and with a game in hand against three-time defending champions Central FC.

“A lot of credit must be given to the players,” said King, a 37-year-old Arima-native, who unexpectedly stood in charge of a squad equipped with the likes of Rundell Winchester, Leston Paul, Kevon Villaroel, Elton John, Kerry Baptiste, Kordell Samuel, Yohance Marshall, Seon Thomas, Jameel Neptune and goalkeeper Akel Clarke among others.

“[Our players] are buying into how I am trying to play the team,” added the North East Stars coach. “We’ve had no problems in the attitude of the players and they are all giving their full efforts in every session. We have a nice bunch with experience and youth. And I say youth, but these are some young guys with three to four years at the Pro League level.

“Nobody expected us to be where we are [currently] and challenging for the league title. It’s also great to put Arima back on the map like the old days with Memphis United and Arima United and to try and achieve something for the owner Darryl Mahabir and all the people that are on board with us.”

King though, is fully aware that the truncated 2017 calendar (Jun. 9 – Dec. 17) is still in the early stages. “We haven’t won anything yet, so we are trying to keep our players focused. We also have to improve in our play because defensively we are lacking discipline and mistakes can cost us. On the other end of the field we are creating chances but not putting them away as much as we should.”
Image: Pro League 2017 Round One Match Day Eight fixtures.
King and his North East Stars side, which now calls Arima home, will return to action on Friday 28 July when they host Police FC from 8pm at the Arima Velodrome. 

King, a former Trinidad and Tobago international, began his professional career as a player at Connection, under the club’s current coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier in 1999, but later joined rivals Joe Public.
​Flashback: Derek King pictured during his tenure as Joe Public head coach.
A knee injury, however, in 2002 curtailed a promising career, forcing the defender to move into coaching at Joe Public at an early age.

King went on to enjoy success as a club coach – most notably leading the Eastern Lions to a historic five-title haul in 2009, including the Pro League title as the youngest winning coach to do so at age 29.

King also had various stints at the national level—his most recent being assistant coach to former Soca Warriors head coach Stephen Hart.

Then through luck as it may be, King, who initially joined on as North East Stars’ assistant coach, took charge of the now Arima-based club a week before competition following a failed attempt by former multiple-time Pro League winning coach, Terry Fenwick, to lead the club into the 2017 season.

“It’s good to be back coaching competitively every week in the Pro League and competing against guys who I’ve played with such as Angus Eve (Club Sando) and Dale Saunders (Central FC), and against Stuart Charles-Fevrier (W Connection) who coached me,” said King, who will have available former Trinidad and Tobago youth midfielder Duane Muckette for the first time this season when the Stars take on the Lawmen.

Pro League action will continue on Saturday 29 July with a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva when Central FC take on Club Sando, a side on a three-game winning streak, from 4pm, followed by W Connection against Defence Force from 6pm.

Also on Saturday MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers, 1-0 winners over three-time Pro League holders Central FC in their last outing, will host Morvant Caledonia United from 4pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.

San Juan Jabloteh’s visit to Point Fortin Civic has been rescheduled to August 18 due to the San Juan Kings away fixture against Costa Rica’s Santos de Guapiles on August 1 on the international stage in the inaugural Scotiabank CONCACAF League, which also involves Central FC.  

Trinidad and Tobago Pro League 2017
Round One Match Day Eight fixtures
(Friday 28 July 2017)
Arima Velodrome
North East Stars vs Police FC—8pm

(Saturday 29 July 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
Central FC vs Club Sando—4pm
W Connection vs Defence Force—6pm

Larry Gomes Stadium
St. Ann’s Rangers vs Morvant Caledonia United—4pm

(Friday 18 August 2017)
Mahaica Oval
Point Fortin Civic vs San Juan Jabloteh—6pm

Pro League 2017 standings

#

Team

MP

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts.

1

W Connection

6

4

1

1

11

6

5

13

2

North East Stars

5

4

1

0

8

4

4

13

3

Club Sando

6

3

1

2

11

7

4

10

4

San Juan Jabloteh

6

3

1

2

6

5

1

10

5

Central FC

5

2

2

1

9

1

8

8

6

Police FC

6

1

3

2

3

7

-4

6

7

Morvant Caledonia

6

1

3

2

3

4

-1

6

8

Defence Force

6

1

2

3

2

7

-5

5

9

St. Ann’s Rangers

6

1

1

4

3

8

-5

4

10

Point Fortin Civic

6

0

3

3

2

9

-7

3