FANS of the football crazy communities in western Kingston who support Tivoli Gardens FC will have to brace themselves for a season that is expected to be a rough one as the team rebuilds.
Tivoli Gardens, which was formed in 1970, have been one of the top teams in the Premier League over the years, having secured five championship titles — in 1983, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2011.
And even though each year the orange-and-black-clad team expects to challenge for the coveted crown, they are expected to struggle this season, having lost a host of their top players.
Head coach Glendon 'Admiral' Bailey, who led the outfit to title success as recently as 2010-2011, said he has been mandated by club president Edward Seaga to rebuild immediately.
"His exact words were, 'Just keep me in the league. The ambition right now is not to win, just to play hard and stay in the top six and take it from there'," Bailey revealed.
"That's the mandate I got from the president and we're going to use this year and build; getting the youngsters involved as early as now because one of the things the president don't want... is that we keep players too long and when we decide to rebuild it takes us years...," he added.
That process was evident in Tivoli's opening-day 3-1 home defeat against fierce rivals Arnett Gardens at the Edward Seaga Complex.
Only three regulars from last season — new captain Kemar Flemmings, Shawn McKoy and Ranike Anderson — were in the starting 11, and they paid the price against a teaam projected to finish in the top six.
"... I've gotten my mandate and a lot of people don't understand what is going on, but I've a boss to report to and if he gives me a mandate, I have to work with it," said Bailey.
"Work with the youths, make the transition, keep a few of the senior players and do what you have to do," said Bailey of his new job description.
Following match day one, Tivoli are second from bottom in 11th place after conceding the most goals.
They have lost long-time striker Roland Dean and Kevin Blackford to Harbour View; the hard-working but under-rated Jameel Thompson has moved to Waterhouse; national player Navion Boyd and the promising Dane Kelly are on loan to Charleston Battery in the US Soccer League, and National Under-23 striker Romeo Parkes has moved on to Boys' Town.
Previously, Tivoli lost Devon Hodges and Kaemmar Daley to overseas clubs, while notably missing from Sunday's line-up were long-time captain Kasai Hinds and his brother Christopher Jackson. Their status are, however, unknown.
In addition, the combative Steve Green who left last season is no longer at the club, which means Tivoli fans will have to get familiar with a slew of new faces this season.
"What I see this afternoon (Sunday)... if we correct some of those fundamental mistakes, we can push. It won't take us long in terms of rebuilding; it can happen this season," said Bailey.
"There is a lot of talent, but just a little jitters and some get carried away sometimes, but if we can settle them down, trust me, we can play some good football," he added.