'Bibi' targets competitive premier league campaign

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Last season's ninth-place finish represented one of their worst-ever outings in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL). But Harbour View FC are not too eager to sweep that performance under the mat just yet.

Mainly because it serves as a stark reminder that significant improvement is needed for the upcoming season.

Interestingly, that result drew attention to the club's downward spiral over the past three seasons, as they ended fifth and sixth in the 2014-15 and the 2015-16 campaigns, respectively.

However, the 'Stars of the East' are now banking on their youthful exuberance to not only contain the club's slippage but, more importantly, to find a place at the business end of this 2017/18 campaign.

In order to achieve that, a high level of consistency and fortitude will be of paramount importance as the depth of their squad will be tested throughout the 33-game long preliminary season.

And the four-time champions will not have long to wait as their mettle will be put to an early test when they oppose former champions Montego Bay United today.

Having been marginally whipped into shape during their intense preseason preparations, the Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner-conditioned outfit will be gunning for a positive start.

This comes on the heels of a poor start last season when they only mustered one win from their first four outings.

Gardner was pleased with what he believes was a “decent” preseason, with the return of a few senior players who were off the island.

Former national players Sean Fraser and Christopher Harvey have both returned to add a nice blend of experience to the youthful squad, which includes Peter-Lee Vassell and Johann Weatherly, who are both transferring from today's St James-based opponents.

They have also secured the services of Ryan Wellington, Kareem Manning and Cleon Pryce on loan from last season's beaten finalists Portmore United; Andrew Allen and Kimarley Fray from Boys' Town; Romaine Bowers from Waterhouse, and young goalkeeper John Wilson from Rae Town. Sheldon McKoy, returning from Rutgers University, and Ajeanie Talbott, both formerly of Jamaica College, are also in the mix.

Captain Nicholas Beckett, national representative Rosario Harriott, as well as Hugh Evans, Evan Taylor, Akeem Priestley, and Dario Stewart are among the senior players who will ensure that they are in contention for the title.

“I think we had a pretty decent preseason; we have some young players here, mostly new players, and it is going to take some time for them to gel with each other. But I think they have what it takes to adjust quickly and just carry out their respective roles within the team, because we want to go into the Premier League season competitive,” Gardner told the Jamaica Observer.

He continued: “But I believe that we have a good combination of youth and experience, and I think it will serve us well throughout this long season. I am really happy to have them (more senior players) here because they bring a lot to the team not only on the field, but also off the field.”

Harbour View's ninth-place finish in the 12-team standings on 36 points was on the back of a record of nine win, seven draw and 15 losses.

Their 30 goals scored ranked them as the fifth-worst attacking team, while a -16 goal difference placed them on the worst defensive team rankings, with 46 goals scored against them.

Having won the league in 2000, 2007, 2010 and 2013, Harbour View have not won since then, will now be trying to break a brief title drought.

“We are expecting a good challenge from Montego Bay United, but I have every confidence in this group of players that I have. I believe once they go out and execute well, then we will be looking forward to great things this season,” the former Reggae Boyz captain stated.

“Nothing will happen overnight, but the players are coming together quite well and with the quality that they bring here, it shouldn't be very long in the season before we start getting some results from them,” Gardner, who will be assisted by another former Reggae Boy, Fabian Taylor, noted.

“My main objective is to see consistent improvement in these players from a day-to-day basis, to have them execute their roles efficiently in the group and once they are doing that job, I think the results will come after,” he added.

Fraser, 34, whose latest stint on the overseas platform included Samut Songkhram in Thailand, is also anticipating a good season.

“Well, so far so good; it is good being back here. We have a good crop of young players and we have the experience as well, so we shouldn't have any excuse for not doing well this season,” Fraser assessed.

Though winning a third title with Harbour View is on his agenda, Harvey, 34, is more concerned about improving the club's placing.

“We very much want to improve our placing first and foremost, and we are going to take it one game at a time as we work to achieve that. It is very important for us to win our first game and myself, Sean and others as senior players have to dig in to show and encourage the younger players,” said Harvey, who has had stints with Trinidadian club W Connection and Antigua Barracuda.

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