Sun | May 31, 2020

Big shoes to fill - ‘Bibi’ Gardner, new Portmore recruits face challenge ahead of new season

Published:Saturday | August 17, 2019 | 12:07 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer

Portmore United have lost two key components to their back-to-back Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) championship unit, with the departure of top striker Javon East and ace midfielder, Ricardo Morris.

However, new Portmore United head coach, Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner, says it’s an opportunity for other players to step up and step into their shoes, although he admits that this would not be an easy task.

Gardner said Portmore United’s players have the quality and competitiveness to fill the gaps left by their former teammates, but that he is expecting others to rise to the occasion.

“We lost some vital players, who would add quality to any team in the nation and the region, Ricardo Morris, Javon East and we might not have Lamar (Walker) for the start of the season and they will all be missed,” Gardner told The Gleaner.

“But it’s another opportunity for somebody else to step up. Portmore have created competitiveness within the football club and so people are always fighting and pulling to come through to show their worth. So this an opportunity for someone to step up and fill the gaps left by these players, which will be difficult because they are great players, but it’s an opportunity for someone to step up and fill these shoes,” Gardner added.

Although the team has lost these top players, they have recruited the likes of Tevin Shaw from Tivoli Gardens, Kareem Banton, formerly of Excelsior High school and Cleveland SC as well as Courtney Allen of UWI and Gardner believes that the environment and professionalism of the club put them in the position to be successful again. However, he noted that they will start from scratch and will have to prove themselves all over again this season.

“It’s a professional environment, the club has created this type of atmosphere and I will continue to be that professional and hope that filters down and across to the players just as (former head coach) Shavar (Thomas) did. Shavar did a great job and we must acknowledge that, but this season we will start fresh and everybody will be on zero points. So if we want to repeat what we have been doing over the past few season, we have to go and prove it week after week and that is what we have to do again this coming season. But we have to respect our opponents and take each game as it comes,” he said.

The team has been in training for over a month now and Gardner says everything is going according to plan and that for this season ahead, he hopes to leave his own mark on the team when they take the field.

“We want to play football and express ourselves. We have players that can show sparks in many different areas, so we want people to go out and express themselves and enjoy the football and what we are doing. So we want to be entertaining,” he said. “When we don’t have the ball we expect the team to bring out their defensive principles, but when we have the ball, we expect them to go out and express themselves and play.”