St George’s College, one of the most dominant teams in urban area schoolboy football in recent times, have failed to live up to their own high standards for the last two seasons.
But their hugely successful coach Neville “Bertis” Bell believes that he has the arsenal to get back to winning silverware this year.
They have watched Jamaica College win the Manning Cup for the last five years. However, St George’s have picked up other trophies along the way, including the Super Cup in 2015, the last time they won a title.
“I actually think we have a pretty decent team. When I went back to St George’s College in 2007, my aim was to make the programme competitive and we thought competitive would mean that we would be there or there about, as they say, which would mean semi-finals and maybe get to the finals or close enough,” Bell told the Jamaica Observer.
Bell believes his team is ready to go this year and that they have learned a lot from last season’s experience. He said a lack of firepower was the main reason they failed to make the desired impact last season.
“I think we will be competitive; we have a pretty decent bunch. Last year we had the youngest team I ever coached in high school and we didn’t perform badly. We didn’t score as many as we should have. We only scored about 30 goals in 17 games, which you won’t win a competition doing that. Normally we average more than 60 goals, but last year we were poor in front of goal. Defensively we only gave up seven goals which was one of the better defensive teams in the entire competition.
“We weren’t bad last year [but we]lost in extra time, lost on penalties, which kept us out of the semi-finals; and this year we got a lot of those youngsters back, so still a young team, but a little bit more experienced, so we actually think we will be as competitive as we normally are.”
St George’s College have been drawn in Group A alongside last year’s losing Manning Cup finalists, St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS), Cumberland High, Papine High, Tarrant High, and Cedar Grove Academy, and Bell is fully aware of where the main threat will come from to his team.
“Our group won’t be easy, we are in the group with St. Andrew Technical who beat us after two tries last year on penalties. They got to the Manning Cup finals and really did well. They have a good coaching staff and wonderful players, and I suspect that they might be even better this year, but we are a confident bunch — we have always been confident.”
He pointed out that he also expected a serious challenge from the other teams that he will face.
“The other teams in the group have always given us problems. We don’t have easy games and we don’t expect that we will have any easy games this year,” he said.
When asked about who can be expected to lead the charge for the “Sky Blues” this year, Bell would not call names.
“I won’t name any specific players but I think we have a really good group and the hope is that we will be as competitive as we normally are.”
He did admit that we was anxious to lift silverware at the end of the campaign.
“From a personal standpoint, the last two-years would be the first two year stretch that we haven’t won something since I returned in 2007. So personally, I am a little anxious to get back to winning something, and hopefully this will be the year. Personally I think we have a very good team and I wouldn’t be surprised if we won something and that is the hope,” said Bell
STATHS will certainly be a team aiming to take group honours along with STGC, and with the look of the team in preseason, they will certainly be pushing Bell’s Boys to the limit. Jeadine White returns between the sticks for the Spanish Town Road-based school and will have a group of players in front of him that will be just as solid in defence as last year, but with a greater penchant for scoring goals, which makes them an even more dangerous outfit in 2018.
The other teams in the group are likely to play second fiddle to these two teams and will have to spring quite a surprise to get in amongst the top two.
By: Dwayne Richards