Opponent to advocate: N/E Stars hires Ross Russell as head coach

​Ross Russell (second from left in front row) displays his award after leading Central FC to their maiden Digicel Charity Shield with a 1-0 win over rivals W Connection in September 2015.

Thursday 07 January 2016 (Revised on Dec. 08, 2016)

North East Stars have made a surprising move this week, signing sacked Central FC coach, Ross Russell, at the Sangre Grande club’s coaching helm.

The 48-year-old Russell will serve as head coach, while Roland Clarke, who made his professional head coach debut at the start of the season, will return to his former duties as academy coach.

North East Stars, notorious for sudden coaching changings, made the “necessary change” following a board decision, according to team manager Maurice Eligon.

North East Stars once led the Digicel Pro League standings this season but are currently sixth on the 10-team ladder with 13 points after eight games. However they are only four points from leaders Defence Force, who hammered the Sangre Grande club 6-1 on December 19 in their final game before the Christmas break.

Ironically, it was Clarke’s side that hammered the proverbial nail in Russell’s sacking three days earlier.

A first half own-goal conceded by Central against North East Stars sealed Russell’s faith at the Couva Sharks.

Moments after the 1-0 loss—Central’s second consecutive defeat, Russell, a two-time league winning coach with Defence Force, was informed by the Couva Sharks’ operations manager Kevin Harrison, the club's decision to part ways.

​Flashback: Ross Russell (second from left, standing) giving instructions to Central FC players prior to a penalty shootout with Police FC following a 2-2 regular-time draw in the quarter-final round of the 2015 First Citizens Cup in October. Central won the shootout 4-3.

“It’s a results game,” Harrison said this week. “But [the decision by the club to sack Russell] wasn’t purely down to the two games we lost. It was about the performance of the players… perhaps they weren’t giving him their all.

“We won seven trophies (four of them major titles) last season and already we have dropped the First Citizens Cup. We couldn’t risk carrying on that way.

“It just happens—sometimes a good coach comes into successful team and it just doesn’t work. We see it happening all the time in world football.

“We made the change while we still have time. While we want to win everything else on offer, our two major aims now, is to make sure and defend the Pro League and Caribbean Club Championship titles.”

Russell was the three-year-old Central's fourth coach when he took up the vacant post last August. But by December 16, five months into the club’s fourth year of existence, he became the fourth Central coach after former Arsenal and England player Graham Rix, Serbia-born former Trinidad and Tobago coach Zoran Vranes, and former Tottenham and England player Terry Fenwick to bite the dust, although it is believed the latter opted not to pursue contract renewal following his second stint.

Since Russell’s sacking, assistant coach Dale Saunders has been shifted into the role of interim head coach of Central with no immediate plan to find a high profile replacement according to Harrison.

In Sangre Grande however, Eligon said the decision to replace Clarke wasn’t based on results or performance. He said with Russell becoming available and the board having reviewed the club’s plans after four months into the season, the change was necessary in taking North East Stars forward.

Eligon, who said the club remains dedicated to giving local coaches the opportunity, added, “At the moment we are comfortable giving Ross a chance at the helm of our club and we will see how things will go.”

North East Stars will return to action on Friday night from 8 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium against San Juan Jabloteh. 

Digicel Pro League 2015-16
Full Round One Match Day Nine fixtures
Friday 8 January 2016
Hasely Crawford Stadium

Defence Force vs Morvant Caledonia United—6 pm
San Juan Jabloteh vs North East Stars—8 pm

Saturday 9 January 2016
Larry Gomes Stadium

Police FC vs Point Fortin Civic—3:30 pm

Ato Boldon Stadium
Club Sando vs W Connection—5 pm
Central FC vs St. Ann's Rangers—7 pm