All hail, Shavar!

Portmore United players salute positive impact of coach Thomas

BY DWAYNE RICHARDS
Observer writer

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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Many people were surprised when Shavar Thomas took over the reins at Portmore United FC.

Untried at the highest level of football in the country, his coaching experience had been limited to schoolboy football at St Jago High and Excelsior High, where he was yet to win a trophy.

However, the powers that be at the club clearly saw something special in the former Reggae Boy and appointed him head coach ahead at the start of the 2017/2018 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) season.

Thomas had to live with the weight of expectations on his broad shoulders as the club had been to the finals of the competition and lost in the two previous seasons.

The 37-year-old set about the task at hand and guided his team to the top of the pile at the end of 33 games to be crowned regular-season champions before guiding them to the elusive title, RSPL champions, with a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Waterhouse FC on Monday night.

His players have hailed his positivity as the reason for them being able to go all the way this term.

Javon East, who has flourished under Thomas, was one of the players who credited the attitude of his new coach to the lifting of the title this season.

Speaking after the final, a joyous East was happy that the team had finally got the job done.

“I feel very good; the hard work has shown. We started and we finished it. Three years straight being at the finals, we came here and delivered,” he said.

“Mentally we prepared to win the game and physically, so we came out here and delivered as you see and won on the penalty shoot-out.”

East highlighted some of the things that led to such a dominant season for Portmore United.

“Positive communication, focus, keeping our discipline, keeping the shape. Play together and get the result.

“We dominated the football at all times, play every game like a final, work hard, off the pitch and on the pitch, do it as professionals and get the job done,” he noted.

While Portmore's top striker, who finished the season with 15 goals, has not achieved his main target set for the RSPL, he is still on the hunt for more glory.

“I didn't achieve my 20-plus goals, but the work continues — we have CFU coming up. That is the next job, so we have to keep focused and deliver once again,” said East.

Goalkeeper Kemar Foster, who provided a safe pair of hands in the final for Portmore, echoes the sentiments of East about the positive impact of Thomas on the squad.

He said everyone saw victory coming for Portmore United after the back-to-back finals losses in the two previous seasons.

“I saw it; we all saw it from the start of the season. We lost last year and the year before. It made us stronger. it made us come really strong as a unit, as a team, as a family, and we really did it this year and we want to give thanks to everyone,” he said.

Foster took over in goal from regular starter Shaven-Sean Paul, who got injured late in the season, and grasped the opportunity with both hands.

“There is no difference between me and Sean Paul, we are two quality goalkeepers. I am a former national player, he is a national player right now and I just have to go out there and deliver, stamp my class — and I did,” said the custodian.

It was Foster's two penalty saves that won the game on the night for Portmore.one save came by instinct and the other, according to the player, through divine intervention.

“It was just natural goalkeeper instinct,” he said about saving the first penalty from Kemar Beckford.

The second save against Carlos Barrett, he takes no credit for. “I got to be honest with you: God made me save that one.”

Left speechless by the win, the Portmore goaltender says it was not easy getting to the top.

“It feels really great to be the champions, words can't explain — Hard work and dedication and a lot of sacrifice. The players, coaching staff, also fans — a lot of sacrifice and we did it,” noted Foster.

Beckford, like East, points to the motivation from Thomas as the main ingredient in Portmore United finally getting back to winning ways and becoming the team to win the premier league the most times with a total of six titles.

“He motivates us a lot. he didn't remind us of our past, he focused on our present and we did it. That was the key factor.”

Portmore United will now turn their attention to the CFU Club championships, which they will co-host with last year's RSPL champions Arnett Gardens at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex next month.

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