Spotlight on BT, Lions clash - 2017-18 RSPL season kicks off
After a three-week delay, the 2017-2018 season of the Red Stripe Premier League will finally get going with four matches today and two tomorrow.
As if to ease the fans into the season gently, the finalists and the promoted teams will not take to the field until tomorrow, while others like Boys' Town, Waterhouse, Harbour View, and Reno all get to show their stuff today. Humble Lion, the people's favourite for last season and the most consistent team over the last four years, Montego Bay United, will also be in action.
In one of the key encounters today, the storied Boys' Town will host Humble Lion coached by former Boys' Town star, Lenworth 'Teacher' Hyde. Of major interest in this game is to see how Boys' Town cope without their top scorer for the past three years Shamar Nicholson, who is due to depart for Europe soon. For lengthy periods last season, Boys' Town languished in the relegation zone despite Nicholson battling for the league leading-scorer position.
Boys' Town coach, Andrew Price, is hoping to start stronger than they did last season despite Nicholson's absence and the unavailability of veterans Kirk Porter, Garfield Gillespie, and Damion Benjamin, who returned to the island late.
"We have to understand that Shamar isn't here anymore, and over the last three years he has given us that goal-scoring presence. This now means that we have to get goals from other sources, and I am confident that we can," stated Price, himself a former Boys' Town player.
"We have Rafique Thomas, Michael Campbell, and we also brought in Phillip Peddie, who scored eight goals for Maverley last season. We just have to be more clinical in front of goal," he added.
Humble Lion, Price acknowledged, is a good team and could again be among the favourites for this season's title, but like all the other teams, they will have to be faced, and his team will do so with belief and confidence.
"We know they are a good team, but like all the other teams, we have to play them, so it does not matter if we play them at the start or at the end. We are playing at home, so we have to be positive. We have to take the game to them.
"Home may not be Collie Smith at this time, but it is still Kingston. We have been using Barbican for the past two years, but we have to make it our fortress until we return to Collie Smith Drive," Price said.
Humble Lion's Hyde, who is in his second stint at the helm of the club, is looking for a strong start.
"It is a very, very important game. We want to start on a good footing and play good football. It will show us where we are coming out of the pre-season training, and we are taking it one game at a time," said Hyde, who has the distinction of guiding three separate clubs to the title.
Like Boys' Town, Humble Lion will be missing an important attacker in Francois Swaby, who is now playing in El Salvador.
"In terms of my squad, we have the wolf pack back. Wolry, Kemeel, and Rafe Wolfe are back with us, which is good, as well as people like Ricardo Dennis and Levaughn Williams, but we lost Swaby," Hyde explained.
He added: "We brought in striker Cory Hylton and another player from Montego Bay United, but due to contractual arrangements, he is not available to play this week."
The Wolfes and Dennis should play key roles for Humble Lion, while recently capped midfielder Jamiel Hardware should be very influential for Boys' Town.
At the Frome Complex, the once-dominant Reno will host Tivoli Gardens, who will welcome the return of coach Omar Edwards, who really had them ticking last year while Waterhouse, product Marcel Gayle will lead his UWI charges into Drewsland to take on Waterhouse, his former team.
In the late match the 'Stars of the East' will entertain the current force in western Jamaica Montego Bay United, in the late game at the Harbour View Stadium.
3:30 p.m.: Boys' Town vs Humble Lion - Barbican Complex
3:30 p.m.: Reno vs Tivoli Gardens - rome Complex
7 p.m.: Harbour View vs Montego Bay United - Harbour View Stadium
3:30 p.m.: UWI F.C. vs Waterhouse - UWI Mona Bowl
5:45 p.m.: Portmore United vs Cavalier - Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex
8:45 p.m.: Arnett Gardens vs Sandals South Coast - Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex