Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Cavalier Soccer Club's leading striker, Claudious Blackburn, is eagerly awaiting his first big moment in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), as his team challenges Harbour View Football Club in today's second-end-of-round final at the Drewsland Mini Stadium. Match time is 9:15 p.m.
"It's a great feeling to know that in my first Premier League season my club (Cavalier) is in a final. I can't wait as at the moment I am a little bit nervous. But the achievement is a great one and it would be tremendous if we can beat Harbour View in the final," Blackburn told The Gleaner yesterday.
For Blackburn, it's also a mixed feeling as he will be up against the club he left last season to play for Cavalier, a club that is back in top-flight football for the first time in 18 years. He played in central defence for Harbour View in last season's Under-21 league, but has moved upfront and after two rounds he has scored eight goals to be tied with seasoned players Rafiek Thomas of Boys' Town and Jermaine Anderson of Waterhouse. They are one goal behind the RSPL's leading marksman, Kirk Ramsey of Arnett Gardens.
"We have been away from the national league for 18 years, so having been back and doing well it is a great feeling for everyone associated with this big club," noted the lanky striker.
"This is my first year in the national league and I have been working very hard in training and on my own. Before the season started I targeted 10 goals, now I have scored eight, so with 16 games remaining my goal is in sight," he disclosed.
Blackburn revealed that the experienced Premier League players in the team have been encouraging and giving him advice.
"I have been training hard coming into the league and pushed myself. Right now, I am fully fit and enjoying the game," the 22-year-old said.
His older brother, Marcelino, popularly known as 'Bassa' in local football circles, represents Arnett Gardens in the national league and the younger brother pointed out that they have a close relationship.
"We are close and although rivals, as we play for different clubs, we talk about football a lot. As a veteran in the league he gives me advice," Claudious said.
Although Cavalier and Arnett have faced off two times in the RSPL this season, Claudious says in the first meeting at Arnett's Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex home, they were on the pitch together for only five minutes as five minutes after Marcelino came on as a second half substitute, he (Claudious) was replaced. And, in the second game at Stadium East, Cavalier's home venue, the older Blackburn did not play as he was injured.
"As a youngster growing up in Trench Town, my wish was to play on the same team with him. Now, I have played against him. But although we are rivals on the pitch, it was a great feeling," he disclosed.
He further expressed national ambitions.
"I would love to wear the national colours one day and also gain a professional contract with an overseas club, but right now my focus is on Cavalier."
He praised the Cavalier management team, led by chairman Rudolph Speid, along with coaches Lamar Morgan and David Laylor, for their guidance.
"They are concerned not only about our football, but also each player. We can talk to them about anything," he said.
"Mr Speid always says that we are not in the league to just participate, we're not here to place 10th. We are in it to win and that has been the goal from we qualified last season for the Premier League," Claudious revealed.
He started playing competitive football at Cavalier 10 years ago and stayed there for five years, then represented Arnett Gardens and Harbour View in the Jamaica Football Federation Under-21 league. Claudious also played Manning Cup schoolboy football for Trench Town High in 2006 and 2007, before transferring to Hydel, even though that institution was not in the Manning Cup that year.
"Now I am back at Cavalier enjoying my football. It is a family atmosphere at the club, the camaraderie and vibe is great," he said. "Right now, I am fully fit."
Cavalier are lying in fifth position on 34 points in the race for the RSPL title, while Harbour View lead with 45.