IT is often said that it’s not how you start a season, but how you finish that counts.
Harbour View Football Club gave new life to that famous quote as they went from being inconsistent to Jamaica Premier League (JPL) champions, in five games.
Such is the nature of the country’s top flight league where team’s that had turbulent runs in the preliminary stage can rebound in the play-offs to enjoy a favourable outcome at the end of the season.
Interestingly enough, chairman of Harbour View Carvel Stewart has never been a big fan of the format — but what was once a flaw in his eyes has now proved most rewarding for his club.
The “Stars of the East” got by Dunbeholden 6-5 in sudden death penalty after a 1-1 stalemate in full and extra time during an enthralling finale at Sabina Park on Sunday.
This is their fifth hold on the title and first since the 2012-13 season, which they won by finishing atop the league standings.
“I felt that because of the format of the competition it was fully deserved, however a lot of people know that I am not a supporter of the format of the competition,” Stewart told the Jamaica Observer.
“I believe that the team that prevailed with the most points after a lot of struggles in the league should be the winner. However, they tell me that the Jamaican culture is for the knockouts and we have ended up with that and so we have made full use of it,” he stated.
Had the format remained as Stewart saw fit, Harbour View would have ended sixth in the standings on 28 points with seven wins, seven draws and eight losses — and their wait to add to their accolades would have been extended as they were nothing close to title contenders at that point.
To add to the irony of things, it was Waterhouse FC — the most consistent team in the preliminary stage, which resulted in them topping the standing — that Harbour View edged 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final to get to the final.
Prior to that, Harbour View downed another well-oiled team in Arnett Gardens on penalty after failing to separate themselves across two legs in the quarter-final.
So, much like a late-kicking horse that requires a distance of ground to get going, Stewart admits that his Harbour View team needed the additional games which saw them peaking at the right time, as their current form at the business end was a stark contrast to what it was in the preliminary stage.
“It was very topsy-turvy but if you saw all the games, you would have seen that the only thing lacking is goalscoring — the chances were created and not much were converted.
“So I felt then that once we go through to the play-offs, we could match up with any of the other clubs ball-for-ball because goalscoring was our downfall during the preliminary rounds. But, we were able to hold it together at the right time and scored enough to win,” Stewart said.
“It is ironic and it is novel because before now, Arnett Gardens finished fifth when there was a similar knockout and they won at that time, but nobody at sixth has ever won before so that is novel,” he noted.
Stewart also lauded Head Coach Ludlow Bernard for his patience and assiduous work throughout the season which also saw him etching his name in the annals of Jamaica’s sporting history.
After leading Kingston College to the Manning Cup and Olivier Shield, Bernard has now completed the feat of also winning the nation’s top flight league in the same year.
“He is the only coach in Jamaica to have won the schoolboy trophies and the national senior league trophy in the same calendar year.
“So that’s great for him and it is also good for us to get back to these levels because we have always participated and represented Jamaica well at the Caribbean level. We are the only team to have won it twice,” Stewart said, referring to their CFU Club Championship wins in 2004 and 2007.
Still, while it may seem that Harbour View are getting back to their glory days, the veteran administrator pointed to the issue of financng to keep the wheels turning.
“Hopefully, it is but it is not an easy venture because the financial levels have changed completely and so yes, we would like to continue playing like that and winning because I know we have an invitation already to go to the United States, and then other things might emanate from that,” he said.
“So, we have to be very prepared and ready to take on these challenges. And I tell everybody, ‘The first item is the money because it enables all the preparations and travels, among other things, that are required to prevail at this level,’ “ Stewart ended.
— Sherdon Cowan