Sat | Dec 10, 2016

BT will not escape Christmas curse

Published:Tuesday | December 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Boys' Town's Xavian Virgo heads the ball away from Barbican's Dean Phillips in their Red Stripe Premier League encounter at the Barbican playing field on Thursday, December 11.-Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

The Red Stripe Premier league is fast approaching the halfway stage with 15 of the rounds now completed.

It's mission impossible to escape the drop for any team at the bottom of the table at Christmas. No team has ever started the new year at the bottom of the table in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) and avoided the drop.

An overseas example BR can readily bring to mind is that only two teams since the advent of the English Premier League have escaped relegation from this position, and only West Bromwich Albion avoided it on the very last day with help from other teams and three matches with favourable results involving the three relegated teams. The teams in this year's RSPL predicament are the following four and their fortunes so far are as follows:

Reno have 14 points and a goal difference of -1, Barbican are on 13 points and a -12 goal difference, Humble Lions have 13 points and a goal difference of -7, while Boys' Town are on 13 points and a -11 goal difference.

Reno FC started the league like a house on fire with leading marksman Craig Foster literally scoring goals at will. But in the last five games, Reno have only drawn one match and the least amount of points achieved by any team in their last six games. If they continue in this vein, they could find themselves at the bottom of the league in the new year.

PLUCKY TEAM

Barbican have been a plucky team. Born and bred in KSAFA, they are used to playing the big KSAFA teams in Jackie Bell competitions, youth competitions and practice games. With young ambitious players and the national assistant senior team coach and former coach Miguel Coley watching matches whenever he can, Barbican are putting up a brave fight to stay in the league. They have replaced Junior Francis - showing they mean business - and are outside the relegation zone for the third week in a row.

Humble Lion bought last year's RSPL most valuable player, Devon Hodges, for a reported fee in excess of $700,000 plus a six-figure monthly salary. Humble Lion have acquired, in addition, Andrew Vanzie from Portmore, Hugh Howell from Waterhouse, Jason Morrison, Ricardo Cousins, former national players, along with returning players Damion Crooks, Kemeel and Wolry Wolfe, Mark Miller, Roberto Fletcher, Ajuran Brown. The problem is these players are at or on the wrong side of 30 years old. Did BR hear the word 'decline'?

Bleachers Report believes the Humble Lion players are in decline, but Boys' Town are even in a greater predicament. BR watched Boys' Town lose 2-0 to Rivoli United in Spanish Town recently, and they fielded a team with Anthony Dawes and Micheal Campbell, both over 36 years of age; Kirk Porter, at least 40; Xavian Virgo, Asrick Samuels and Peter Keys, all 29 years old; Rafiek Thomas at 30; Garfield Gillispie, Victor Thompson and Damion Benjamin, very close to 35. Only one player on the field, Pierre McPherson, was aged below 25 and playing his first year of football in the Premier League. BR believes this team has been in decline for the past two seasons and only escaped the drop in the last game of last season, surprisingly defeating confirmed semi-finalists Arnett Gardens. The latter used a goalkeeper who Bleachers Report has not seen keep goal for the Arnett Gardens senior team since or, for that matter, before that game.

FIGHTING FOR PLAYERS

There are several reasons why a team will struggle to avoid the drop after being near to the bottom of the table. The first is, the big teams will not lose any good players. Not even squad players will leave a top club to a lesser light, but the top- and middle-table teams will make tempting offers to the top players from the lower-level teams in the league.

Another reason will be the financial strength of the teams, and that goal-difference column. A look at all four teams, and BR believes that players from Reno will not defect, as their family life is rooted in western Jamaica, and Reno just got paid a whopping $1.5 million for winning the Flow Cup.

Barbican's players will also stay the course, but their quality is suspect. Humble Lion will keep their players due to financial strength. Boys' Town have seen the talent drain every single season, and the few good young players at the club now will be courted by other teams. And their financial problems are well documented. BR is predicting that Boys' Town will not escape the curse of Christmas and will be playing in the lower tier of Jamaican football next year unless they can follow West Brom of the English Premier League with the great escape. BR also believes one of the promoted teams will also be relegated, and Barbican will be the ones to fall from grace.

In the meantime, the third coaching casualty of the premier league will be former Jamaica player Linval 'Palla' Wilson of Humble Lion. He will be replaced as head coach by Donovan Dukie, or second choice Geoffery 'The Saviour' Maxwell but will be retained as assistant coach.