Craig Foster returns to boost Reno’s RSPL chances

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Saturday, December 31, 2016

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RENO FC are set to have the services of former national youth striker Craig Foster, a move that will boost their goalscoring thrust in the 2016-17 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), according to the club’s recently appointed President Wendell Downswell.

Foster, 25, has been representing Pennsylvania-based Harrisburg City Islanders in United Soccer League (USL), the third tier of professional club football in the United States.

Downswell, also the club’s technical director, said Foster, who has starred for Reno in previous seasons of the national league, has been a major missing piece in the former champions’ puzzle.

"We’ve been lacking a quality striker and Craig Foster coming back is a big confidence booster to the team. He is a proven goalscorer and has made his mark in the premier league, and we are hoping to have him long term," he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

"There are some games we drew and lost this season, and if we had a quality striker we would have come away with more and been better placed. In games we played some good first halves and didn’t get the goals and then lost," Downswell, who has coached Jamaica’s national teams at various levels, explained.

Foster, who has good acceleration over short distances, is not a physically imposing presence, but is well regarded locally for his work ethic, off-the-ball movement and predatory finishing.

The forward is expected to suit up for Reno’s next game, scheduled to be a home fixture on Wednesday at Frome Sports Club against last-placed Boys’ Town FC, who have mustered a mere 12 points.

Reno, who have not lifted the national title since the 1994-95 campaign, are precariously placed in ninth position in the 12-team standing with 18 points from 17 games.

They have scored only 12 times this season, while letting in 19 goals. The Westmoreland-based club has lost its last three games during a winless slide that has spanned five outings.

Downswell, who has guided the national Under-17s to the FIFA World Cup, is optimistic that better lies ahead in 2017 for the three-time champions.

"We’re not comfortable with the position presently with us being at ninth. We started well and we should be about fifth or sixth, but we had setbacks and with some key players out for the last three games where we had those losses. Getting back goalkeeper Dennis Taylor, who was out on suspension, will be a plus for us.

"We are looking forward to the transfer market in January to bring in top players and looking forward to end the rest of the season on a high. We are really seeking a top six spot and if you look at the table, we can catch up," he said.

The top two teams at the end of 33 preliminary games will automatically advance to the RSPL semi-finals. The next four teams finishing between third and sixth are to challenge for the remaining two places.

Arnett Gardens FC, on 22 points, currently occupy sixth place.

The RSPL transfer window is set to run from January 2 to 31.

A raft of changes at the storied club — for decades regarded as a football flag-bearer in western Jamaica — has included the appointment of former Waterhouse FC President Fitzroy Vidal as Reno’s chairman.

"We are coming forward in 2017. We are restructuring the club with Fitroy Vidal as the new chairman of the club. We are seeking solid footing from the administrative level and that will filter down.

"We are cognisant of the fact the fans want to see us back at the top. We are working on it, getting young, quality players into the team, and that’s what the club was built on. We are working on players at the Under-20 and Under-23 levels. We want to recapture that strength and bring back the winning culture of the club," Downswell stressed.

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