A football match is as much a battle between coaches as it is among the players themselves. Sometimes it a chess game, with each opponent matching move with move.
Tonight, successful veteran W Connection head coach St Lucian Stuart Charles Fevrier will take on young coaching aspirant Angus Eve. The occasion is the Digicel Pro Bowl final, which kicks off from 8 p.m. at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. What makes this professional football league season-closer interesting is the fact that the winners take all.
Only one team will walk away with the guaranteed $100,000 prize.
This season, the two finalists are almost evenly matched. Each have won a Cup competition, and they also ended the Pro League season on the same number of points, with only goal-difference separating third-placed W Connection from fourth-placed Stars. On paper, it should be a close final.
“Obviously it’s a game that could go either way,” Fevrier said. “The teams are close, so it depends on what happens on the night.”
“I have a 50-50 chance,” Eve counters. “We really want to win this title.”
From a coaching point of view, Eve faces Fevrier, one of the best defenders to ever play football in Trinidad and Tobago during his days with the ASL Sport team of the late 1970s. As a coach, Fevrier has led W Connection to three Caribbean Club Championships, six First Citizens Cup titles, three FA Trophy titles, four Pro League titles, four Digicel Pro Bowls, two Toyota Classics and a Lucozade Goal Shield.
In the latter part of the season, Fevrier’s W Connection have been the hottest team in the country, beating Pro League champions Defence Force and runner-up Neal & Massy Caledonia AI—both by four goal margins. W Connection also qualified for the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League as group winners. So well have W Connection been playing lately that Fevrier has recently opted to benching Joevin Jones, the best player during the 2012-2013 Pro League season.
Youth talent Neil Benjamin Jr took his chance as a starter, scoring a hat-trick as W Connection defeated Pro League champions Defence Force 4-0 in the penultimate round of the Pro League.
“I rewarded the players for the performances when Jones was out. Jones was out for two games with injury and the team played well, so I decided to stay with the winning team,” Fevrier said. “Benjamin has been doing well for us. He would have a future if he sticks to the game and continues to improve.”
One of Trinidad and Tobago’s best attacking players, Eve still has the most international caps in Trinidad and Tobago history. A player up to eight years ago, 41-year-old Eve is just in his first year as head coach of North East Stars after stints as assistant coach at San Juan Jabloteh and Ma Pau. But after Brazilians failed to deliver, Eve was given the nod this season and has done well.
Stars have reached two Cup finals this season, losing the Lucozade Goal Shield 5-3 on penalties to Connection following a goalless draw in early June. But, they also beat Defence Force 4-2 on penalties to win the Toyota Classic after a 2-2 stalemate.
“We have the best defensive record in the (Pro) League. I think we also have the best goalkeeper (Cleon John) in the League, although the national team does not seem to think so,” Eve declared.
And although it might well be war in tonight’s final, both coaches have a healthy respect for each other’s ability.
“This year, Angus has done very well with North East Stars. He has brought them back to the level they [were at previously]. It is now for him to build on it,” Fevrier said of Eve.
“He’s the most successful coach in the history of the Pro League,” Eve said of his opposite number. “He is very astute, and I respect him a lot.”