Tough return for former champs Portmore
Former champions Portmore United will not have the luxury of easing back into the big league as on today's opening day of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), the newly promoted former champions will play away to last season's beaten finalists, Montego Bay United.
For some observers, that match-up could be considered a harsh one but fellow promoted teams and top-flight football first-timers, UWI Mona, will have it even harder as they play away to the champions, Arnett Gardens. That will take place tomorrow night under the watchful eyes of the entire nation as their game will be televised.
While UWI Mona, but for their few experienced personnel, may be wondering what to expect, Portmore United may even be willing to see themselves as the equals to Montego Bay United. Prior to their demotion, the Portmore-based team was one of the most consistent in the league. Their unbeaten run for all of last season speaks to their quality, something acknowledged by Dr Dean Weatherly, director of football for Montego Bay United.
"It is going to be a very competitive game as all of last season they did not lose a game. They are a team that we have always had a serious rivalry with and one that has good talent," Weatherly said of Portmore United.
"I think they will be back to make a statement. Most teams will be aiming to start without dropping points, but the fact that they did so well for so long in the league means that they would want to show that they belong," added the man who led Montego United to the title in the 2013-2014 season and to the final in the 2014-2015 season.
Portmore United assistant coach Jeffrey Hewitt was very respectful of Montego Bay United when he looked ahead to today's game, going as far as to almost to give them the edge over his team.
"We know that they are a quality team. They are one of the teams that should be in front in terms of everything, certainly in terms of fitness.
"They should also be match-ready as they are playing in the regional club championship, so that should help them with their readiness," Hewitt explained.
Despite giving credit to Montego Bay United, Hewitt was not prepared to write off his team's chances, stating that they were quietly confident. His team, Hewitt said, was a young one with some established names. Chief among the established names is former national representative Omar Daley, who has returned home after stints in the United Kingdom and the United States.
"Daley is back and should start. He is one of the players that we are looking to in terms of providing leadership for some of the younger players," Hewitt said of the midfielder.
Players such as Ricardo Morris, Ewan Grandison, Sule McCalla, Paul Wilson, Kereem Manning, and the still useful Kevin Deer could also feature.
Montego Bay United, on the other hand, will look to the likes of Dino Williams, Allan Ottey, Dwayne Ambusley, Ramone Sibbles, a good young player, and Donovan Carey.
According to Weatherly, Portmore United are not the only ones with something to prove as new coach Timothy Hankerson will also want to make a statement in his first game in the league.
In other games, 1998 World Cup veteran Ian Goodison could be making his debut for Harbour View in his fifth decade of life when the 'Stars of the East' host Boys' Town at the Harbour View Mini-Stadium. Reno will host Humble Lion while Rivoli United and Waterhouse will do battle at Prison Oval.
Tivoli Gardens will attempt to put a wretched year behind them when they host Cavalier at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex.
6:30 p.m: Harbour View vs Boys' Town at Harbour View Mini-Stadium
5 p.m: Montego Bay United vs Portmore United at Montego Bay Sports Complex
3:30 p.m: Reno vs Humble Lion at Frome Complex
4 p.m: Rivoli United vs Waterhouse at Spanish Town Prison Oval
3:30 p.m: Tivoli Gardens vs Cavalier at Edward Seaga Sports Complex
8:30 p.m: Arnett Gardens vs UWI FC at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex