“We have everyone this time, unlike last season,” trumpeted Defence Force assistant coach Marvin Gordon as he eyes the 2012-2013 TT Pro League season.
Defence Force lifted the 2010-2011 Digicel Pro League Championship but failed to defend the title last season(2011-2012) following it’s late entry into the campaign because of a four-month State of Emergency issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Government which ended in November.
Insufficient preparations, the Soldiers jumped into the League race in December and had to play ‘catch up’ with regular games occasionally separated by rescheduled fixtures.
The Ross Russell coached Defence Force also had a skeleton roster without striker Devorn Jorsling who joined Caledonia AIA after a one year stint with USL Pro club Orlando City in the United States. While a number of players including Corey Rivers, Kevon Carter and Jerwyn Balthazar missed a huge portion of the season while on Military promotional courses.
However the Soldiers boasted the ever flamboyant striker Richard Roy who top scored in the League with 14 goals as they finished fourth(32 points), eight points behind winner W Connection(40 points), despite a late and unprepared campaign.
This time around, Defence Force pre-season campaign includes its full squad with even Jorsling returning to the fold.
Goalkeepers Kevin Graham and Sheldon Clarke, team captain Corey Rivers, Jorsling, Carter, Roy, Jahvon Neptune, Balondemu Julius, Rawle Fletcher, Ross Russell Jr., Rodell Elcock, Curtis Gonzales, Dwight Scott, Christon Baptiste, Josimar Belgrave, Balthazar, Aklie Edwards, Sean Narcis, Dexter Pacheco, Kerry Joseph, Anton Joseph, Glynn Franklyn, Jemel Sebro, Marvin Jones, Keston Williams and veteran Michael Edwards are all under the watch of assistant coach Gordon, while Head Coach Russell is currently working with the Trinidad and Tobago U20 Team.
“This season we will be well prepared because the last season the SOE (State of Emergency) threw us off,” explained Gordon. “We are getting a full pre-season so I think we will be very prepared. We now have the full complement of players for the new season.”
But last season wasn’t fruitless for the Soldiers reaching the Finals of the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, FA Trophy and Digicel Pro Bowl, winning the last knockout 5-2 against favourites Caledonia AIA.
“I think the end of last season should have sent a signal to the rest of the clubs [in the League for the upcoming season] because we were missing our eight key players; using our reserve players along with some of the seniors and we won the (Digicel) Pro Bowl. So I think that in itself should send a signal to the rest of the clubs.”
Gordon believes that his players showed “great character and spirit” to win the Digicel Pro Bowl within the challenges.
With its full complement of players and feeding off the character showed last season, Defence Force’s cannons are aimed high for the 2012-2013 season.
“I believe we can lift the League Championship this season and also go on to win at least two or three trophies,” said Gordon.
“I think that's the goal of the team and when we look at the squad we have on paper. But I keep reminding the players everyday that paper don't win matches. Yes we might have a strong squad on paper and on the training pitch but on the day of the game if we don't bring the goods we won't get the results.”
Gordon also explained that the staff will be trying to make it very comfortable for the players with the right professional environment as well as afford the players free time with their families.