Spartans coach Dave Alleyne speaking to his team ahead of their first game on Wednesday.
The Barbados Football Association’s Division One competition, which kicks off on Wednesday, is set to be more competitive than ever this season.
With three recent promotes in Whitehall Titans, Israel Lovell Foundation Ivy Rovers and Central League Spartans, all teams would be looking to put their best foot forward to ensure promotion to the coveted Premier League next year.
Whitehall Titans and Ivy Rovers were top of the pack with 34 points apiece in the Edwin Harding and Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge zones respectively, while Central League Spartans ended their season on 27 points to win the Lambert Thomas Zone. Additionally, Premier League teams Rendezvous FC, Waterford Compton and Silver Sands FC were relegated to Division One.
According to head coach of the Titans Kenroy Skinner, the team was on a three-year plan to make it to the Premier League having gained promotion to Division One.
“The last season for us was really good. It went according to plan. We always said from the beginning we were looking to get promoted. We did it this year, and hopefully we could get promoted to Premier League in two and surprise some people,” he said.
He noted the team this season were complemented with a number of national Under-17 and Under-20 players.
“The guys have been training really hard. We have a good young team . . . so we have a good young unit. Our plans for this season isn’t to just go and hope and pray to stay up in first division like how a lot of teams who just got promote look at it. We are looking to compete, and we’re looking to get promote again. We’re not just there to say we’re playing first division, we’re there to say we’re moving up from Division One to Premier League,” he stated matter-of-factly.
With the likes of Under-17 players in Jaylan Gilkes, Shaquinne Phillips, Nathan Skeete, Nathanial Knight, Sharad McAllister, and Under-20 players like Nathan Broomes and Zico Springer coming over from Checker Hall FC, he said the St Peter-based team was a force to be reckoned with.
“I think we did some good business and got the better players from the Under-17 national team. I guess our location helped quite a bit because those boys come from St Lucy and St Peter. We’re located in St Peter, so I think that made the decision for them. The fact that we got promoted to Division One I think helped them as well. It wouldn’t make sense for them to be representing Barbados and playing in Division Two at this stage and looking to move to the Under-20 team,” he said, adding that they had lost only two games in Division Two last season and he believed they could do it again.
Meanwhile, Central League Spartans head coach Dave Alleyne said his team had been working on being promoted for the last three years.
“Right now the boys are really eager to start the football season. They’ve been putting in all the necessary work, despite the inconvenience last week with the lights being turned off and not being able to get in training as we would like. I think we should be back on track for this week,” he said.
With three new defenders and an attacker in Vincentians Kimron Quashie, and twin brothers Maykele and Mickele Culzac and Antiguan Theodore Benjamin Jr, Alleyne said promotion to the Premier League was their ultimate goal.
“They have been training pretty well with the team so far, but now it’s about gelling in the first couple of games and try to see how much goals we could get in early. Then we will take it from there, but within the first four or five games, we will see where we stand. We have a pretty strong team and we should be able to finish in the top half and ultimately be promoted,” he said.
Unlike the other recently promoted teams, Ivy Rovers has not been able to secure any transfers and are still awaiting one player, Malcolm “Buju” Marshall, to come over on loan from Benfica Sports Club.
“We are a club where we don’t have as much finds as those other clubs. We only lately got a sponsor and we’re trying to make it work for us,” explained head coach Bryan Neblett.
However, despite his disadvantage of not securing any major transfers and playing with a young team, he was not daunted.
“We’re going to take it game by game. At the end of every game, we will look and see where we stand on the table. At least for the first year with a bunch of youngsters, we will play not to come back down to Division Two.
“I don’t want them to get hot-headed and think that because they won the Zone and came second overall, that they feel they are bigger than the game and then we get demoted. We’re not going looking to win, but if we can maintain a good record and remain in the top three or four then we will see how our chances are to win it,” he said.