It’s “full speed ahead” when the 2016/2017 season of the TT pro league kicks off with the traditional Digicel Charity Shield on Friday 9 September at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. The reason for this atmosphere of pace surrounding the teams in the nation’s highest level of club football is the revised schedule of matches. This season, the league will consist of two rounds of matches which will be contested from September 2016 to January 2017, then following a short break the DPL will revert to an April to December schedule in 2017. The major benefits of the change as outlined by the league Directors are the elimination of the Christmas/Carnival break and aligning of the schedule with other regional competitions which will allow teams to be in full competitive mode for Club Championship tournaments.
The Digicel Charity Shield will feature two teams with experience at those regional tournaments with defending league champion Central F.C meeting Digicel Pro Bowl winners Defence Force. It will be Central’s third successive trip to the season opener which they captured for the first time last year and Dale Saunders and his men will be going all out to retain the title in order to make a statement early in the truncated season.
“We ready to go because Central just came off too big matches in the Concacaf Champions League and we had to be well prepared for that. Plus, with this short season we want to be out of the blocks fast and set the pace in front” was the comment from the Central Head Coach.
Central will be confident of doing the needful especially with the calibre of signings made in the off season which include the likes of National men’s senior team captain Kenwyne Jones and his international counterpart Keron “Ballpest” Cummings who according to Saunders have gelled well with the rest of the squad.
“Cummings now coming back to full form, we seeing the Ballpest we are accustomed to before he was side-lined and that quality should get us off to the start we want”, concluded the former national team midfielder.
It will be no easy task because the Defence Force has some calibre of its own.
“The records over the years will show that I have the best striker in the league in Devorn Jorsling and then there is the captain Jerwyn Balthazar, hardest working player in football and we have a fine outfit to go along with them” said Head Coach Marvin Gordon.
“Although we respect the quality of the latest signings at Central F.C, we are a team full of quality and heart, plus we have the backing of the entire defence force family” Gordon concluded.
Jorsling was not in a mood to mince words when he spoke to Pro League media, “We looking to win. That is it”, was the opening statement from the former league MVP. “We have been working hard to get ready for this shorten season and we know we must start strong with winning the Charity Shield and that is what we are going out there to do on Friday”
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The military men are no strangers to season opener having competed in 2012 and 2013 but lost on both occasions (2-0 and 4-2 respectively) to W. Connection which is the most successful team in the tourney with three (3) titles. This makes the prize even more enticing for the men of the Defence Force who have no problem embracing the underdog role when they enter the frenzy of Couva Sharks at the Ato Boldon on Friday.