Central wins Digicel Pro Bowl to complete seven-trophy haul; now players’ contracts, bonuses and the CONCACAF Champions League are in renewed focus

The 2015 Digicel Pro Bowl champions Central FC. (Photo: Allan V. Crane / www.ttproleague.com)
Friday 29 May 2015

Central FC celebrated their fourth major title and seventh overall this season to bring down the 2014-2015 season curtain in style on Friday night with a comprehensive 4-1 win over 10-man Caledonia AIA in the final of the 2015 Digicel Pro Bowl at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

But with a huge number of players’ contracts expiring on Sunday 31 May and ongoing bonus discussions along with the upcoming 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League season in focus, the management of Central Football Club are set for, probably, their busiest weeks ahead.

Head coach, Englishman Terry Fenwick, whose contract also expires on Sunday, and countryman Kevin Harrison, Central FC’s managing director, both confirmed that a huge fraction of the squad, including members of the technical staff, will see their contracts expire at the end of the month and that new talks are yet to happen.
Central FC forward Willis Plaza, left, unleash a strike during his team’s 4-1 win over Caledonia AIA in the final of the 2015 Digicel Pro Bowl on 29 March at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. (Photo: Allan V. Crane / www.ttproleague.com)
“We had a number of big matches happening and we didn’t want to distract the players by talking about contracts,” said Harrison on Friday night. “As far as we are concerned, we have a group of players that we want to keep, and we would be talking to them next week. Some of them may want wage increases that we may not be able to meet but we have a good team and we would like to keep most of the players.”

While Harrison admitted that the timing is “possibly” late, he said there is no need for panic among the players or staff.

The Central FC managing director added, “We just wanted the players to focus on their football, in which they did.”

Fenwick meanwhile, believes, “It’s an important two or three weeks for the club to get [contract issues resolved] so we can physically compete in the CONCACAF Champions League.”

On Friday night, Caledonia, Pro Bowl winners in 2008, had levelled the scores 1-1 from the penalty spot in the 40th minute through captain and veteran fullback Kareem Joseph, hitting into the top corner of Central FC’s goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams’ netting after Nathan Lewis was brought down in the area by defender Uriah Bentick.

Bentick, who provided the cross in the 7th minute for midfielder Ataulla Guerra to volley past Caledonia goalkeeper Shemel Louison for an early 1-0 Central lead, turning from hero to villain.

However Central, winners of this season’s major titles: the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League, First Citizens Cup, and the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship, were back in front by the 43rd minute before adding two more goals in the second half to complete the Pro Bowl win.

“Having the opportunity to win seven (trophies) in the season motivated us,” said veteran midfielder and Central FC captain Marvin Oliver. “Tonight was one of our best performances of the season and what a way to close it off.

“It’s an honour to come out and put on this performance in the closing night. A lot of things have been happening behind the doors with money issues but tonight we just showed that the guys’ minds have always been on football.

“Now the ball is in the owners’ court, because what we achieved this season with this squad is tremendous. I think everyone should be rewarded with a year or two on their contracts. No need to stop it now but just help enhance it and take it to the next level.”

Fenwick, who replaced Zoran Vranes as head coach in late March, praised his bunch saying, “It would have been easy to throw in the towel because we have done enough and achieved great things already this season. But to go right to the last whistle (on Friday night) and with a comprehensive win, I think that shows the quality we got in the squad.”

Willis Plaza, eventual tournament MVP and joint top-scorer with three goals as W Connection’s Hashim Arcia, smashed a right-footer past Lousion for a 2-1 Central lead before the break. The 27-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international forward, who scored the goals in 1-0 wins over Defence Force and Police in the quarter-final and semi-final rounds respectively, providing yet another important goal for the “Couva Sharks”.

Caledonia had an excellent chance to level the scores again in the 51st minute but veteran forward Conrad Smith beaten by the power on a Joseph (K) cross from the right.

Less than a minute later on the other end and Central were celebrating a two-goal cushion with a 3-1 score-line, even with Fenwick, who was suspended for his red card sending off in the semi-final round, spectating from the stands and assistant coach Dale Saunders pacing the technical area.

Jason Marcano was free at the end of a Darren Mitchell left side cross and headed with ease to beat Louision, who was clearly experiencing his worst night in Caledonia colours.

Then from a quickly taken Marcano free-kick in the 68th minute, substitute Jamal Jack knocked in a low strike to beat the Grenada national team and Caledonia goalie for a 4-1 Central lead.

Less than ten minutes later and just 14 minutes left on the clock, the frustration of Caledonia’s most talented player, midfielder Keyon Edwards, boiled over and was shown a direct red card by referee Rodphin Harris for verbally abusing the official, who had called a foul against him after shoving Leston Paul to the ground.

Soon it was all over for Caledonia, while Central, who also won this season’s Rawle Fletcher, Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies for winning each of the three rounds of the DPL, were celebrating their maiden Digicel Pro Bowl and the $100,000 winner takes all prize.

“Seven titles are beyond our dreams,” Harrison shared. “We never imagined we would have done this. We had hoped we would win the league this season and we had hoped we would win the Caribbean Cup but to win seven trophies in one (season) is just unbelievable.

“People would talk about some of these trophies, the ones we won for each stage of the league (championship), as not being all that, but that showed that we were on top of the league every step of the way.

“(Tonight) it’s not about the money. It’s about winning a trophy because the money will be spent but the trophy will be ours forever with the others we won this (season). This group of players have won so many trophies and we are very proud of the team spirit and how they held it together.”

Harrison said the club plans to stand by its offer of a ten percent bonus from the $1 million earned for the league championship to be shared with players, who will also be rewarded out of fifty percent bonuses out of all other competitions’ prize monies earned this season.

Harrison explained, “Yes, there were some discussions [about bonuses] but it was blown out of proportion. We have a lot of expenses, we have debts to repay, and I think the players understand this. As far as I am concerned we are moving forward and we are moving into CONCACAF. I think we are moving up and up and we want to keep this group of players together because I feel next season we will win everything in sight.”

Harrison, acting team manager Kevin Jeffrey and marketing officer Amiel Mohammed are scheduled to depart for the United States on Monday for the Group stage draw of the 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League of which Central FC and bitter rivals W Connection qualified for by topping the rest of the Caribbean by reaching the final of the 2015 CFU Club Championship earlier this month. Central went on to defeat Connection in the final to be crowned Caribbean champions while Jamaica’s Montego Bay United secured the third and final Caribbean berth at the CCL, which begins in August, with a third place win over Haiti’s Don Bosco FC.

Digicel Pro Bowl 2015 Final
Caledonia AIA 1 
(Kareem Joseph 40’ penalty) vs Central FC 4 (Ataulla Guerra 7’, Willis Plaza 43’, Jason Marcano 52’, Jamal Jack 68’)

Caledonia AIA
: 1.Shemel Louison (GK), 4.Conrod Smith (30.Domini Garnett 60th minute), 9.Keyon Edwards (Red Card), 12.Kareem Moses, 16.Pierre Hitner (Yellow Card), 22.Jameel Neptune (Yellow Card), 26.Nicholas Mercano, 27.Nathan Lewis (25.Anthony Charles 83rd minute), 28.Purnell Schultz, 23.Jamil Joseph (Yellow Card), 18.Trayon Bobb (29.Mickaeel Jem Gordon 60th minute)

Unused substitutes: 34.D'Eandre Villaroel, 2.Kyle Mack 

Coach: Jerry Moe

Central FC
: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (1.Javon Sample 83rd minute), 2.Elton John, 4.Uriah Bentick (Yellow Card), 5.Akeem Benjamin (11.Darren Mitchell 49th minute), 7.Jason Marcano, 10.Marvin Oliver (C), 3.Keion Goodridge, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 33.Willis Plaza, 6.Leston Paul, 45.Ataulla Guerra (12.Jamal Jack 53rd minute)

Unused substitutes: 8.Sean de Silva, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 17.Marcelle Francois, 14.Jean-Luc Rochford

Assistant Coach
: Dale Saunders

Match Referee: Rodphin Harris