Hungry 'Lions' eager to get JPL season underwayFriday, June 18, 2021
BY SHERDON COWAN
Humble Lions Head Coach Andrew Price is hoping his team can be competitive but, more importantly, have fun in the truncated season of the Jamaica Premier League (JPL).
While not fond of the format to accommodate the shortened season, Price believes the fact that all teams will be on level pegging with minimum preparation, should make for an interesting outcome, and as such, is doing his best to whip his players into the best possible shape for action.
The JPL, which begins on June 26, will be making a long-awaited return after the 2019/2020 season was ruled null and void by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) due to the novel coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
Matches will take place at three designated venues — The University of the West Indies (UWI) Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence, National Stadium, and Stadium East — without spectators as part of Government protocols for the return of football.
The season will be a one-round round-robin format to rank the teams from one to 12 based on points.
After round-robin play, the top two teams on points will go straight to the semi-finals, while teams ranked third to sixth will engage in a quarter-final play-off, with the two winners determining the other semi-finalists.
Those in the lower half of the table — seventh to 12th — will also engage in a play-off to determine their final placing in the season.
Games will be played on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, leading up to the semi-final round. The final is scheduled for September 26.
Additionally, all players, club officials, and match officials will be tested before and throughout the season.
“I declare openly I am not a proponent of the truncated season; I would have preferred at least two months preparation for this competition, but it is what it is. If this is the only way we can get back on the field then I will support it, and we just have to get ourselves ready. It is what has been instituted, so we just have to go through with it and try to be competitive throughout the entire programme,” Price told the Jamaica Observer.
“The players are very excited to be back on the field [as] one year and three months is a long time to be away from football and, by extension, something that you love so much and something that you are dependent on to feed your family.
“So, I am really happy that the players have an opportunity to get back on the field... we are working hard, a date has been set and we are working towards that date so that we can be competitive,” he added.
Price's Humble Lions will be among four teams to get the JPL show on the road with an intriguing double-header at the UWI Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence.
The Clarendon-based outfit are set to cross swords with Cavalier FC in the feature contest at 3:00 pm, after former champions Arnett Gardens are scheduled to get the ball rolling against UWI FC in the opening fixture at 1:00 pm.
Though shortened, Price, who is in his second season with Humble Lion, pointed out that the onus will be on his technical staff to get an accurate assessment of players' strengths, weaknesses, and fitness levels and to manage their time accordingly to ensure some amount of excitement and competitiveness throughout.
“That is one of the drawbacks of a truncated season where you have to play week in and week out, and it has a wear and tear on the body, so it is about really trying to get the players in good condition to see how best we can be competitive for a three-month season,” Price shared.
“We have to monitor the times and get in some rotations because, as you know, the players wouldn't be in any good condition having been laid off for such a long time. So, we are going to have to whip them in shape and have some depth in our squad so that we can rotate people and don't burn them out in this intense and short period of time,” the former Boys' Town coach reasoned.
Despite entering the new season with the same calibre of players from the 2019/20 campaign, replicating their form before the break will take some doing if Humble Lion is to make the semi-final or even the play-offs.
Prior to the break, Humble Lions sat third in the overall standing on 42 points and were on a three-match winning run. Their overall stats read 11 wins, nine draws and five losses in 25 games.
Still, Price will be hoping that the likes of custodian Dennis Taylor — who recently had a good outing for the Reggae Boyz in a 1-1 scoreline with Serbia — as well as Kenneil Hyde, Andre Clennon, Jason Wright, Ricardo Dennis, Levaughn Williams, and Renae Lloyd, among others, will give off their best when the time comes.
“This week was our second week of training, so we are truly into it now, the players have been very enthusiastic and they are working hard in training, so we just have to continue to build day by day so that when the season starts we are ready to go.
“Like I said, it is not the ideal situation, but we are trying to utilise it the best way we can to get the players up and ready for the first game,” Price, who is also assistant coach of the Reggae Girlz team, ended.
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