Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rangers lose again

St Ann’s club fight for survival through youth


Well saved: W Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald is a whirl of arms and legs as he pushes this effort from a Police attacker overbars during Friday’s top-of-the-table Digicel Pro League clash at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo which Connection won 2-1. –Photo: Stephen Doobay

Mark Fraser

St Ann’s Rangers have been on a long losing run.

Not just matches, but players as well. The problem? Rangers do not have the money to pay big bucks.

The club’s latest on-the-field setback was a 1-0 defeat against San Juan Jabloteh, the team nearest to them at the bottom of the 2013-2014 Digicel Pro League table. Veteran T&T striker Kerry Baptiste scored Jabloteh’s 51st minute winner, as Rangers went down minus their first-round captain Clevon Mc Fee.

Several notable players of yesteryear have passed through Rangers, including 2006 World Cup midfielder Aurtis Whitley, Clayton Morris, Errol Mc Farlane, Clayton Ince, Kerwin Jemmott, Anton Pierre and Colin Roberts among them. Now Rangers develop young players, who ultimately depart for more money.

At youth level, the St Ann’s team still makes a huge impact, winning the 2013 Youth Pro League Under-15 and Under-17 divisions, while five of their women players were called to the T&T national U-20 team, including keeper Tenesha Palmer, who started in the 2-0 win over Honduras on Friday night.

The latest departure for the financially-challenged St Ann’s Club is recent best player Mc Fee, who made a second half substitute appearance for Police on Friday against W Connection.

Four other Rangers players moved elsewhere in the December-January transfer window. Kurdell Bishop joined Mc Fee at Police, Kerron Cummings went to North East Stars and Dwayne James, who started the season at central defence, to San Juan Jabloteh.

Similarly, during the 2012- 2013 season, Rangers lost nine players to the new Central FC team, including Jason Marcano, promising, young Shaquille Nesbitt, goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, Shane Mattis, Hector Sam, Jamal Jack and Shem Alexander.

Police took Elijah Belgrave, Jevon Morris, Christon Thomas and another four went to San Juan Jabloteh. Long-time Rangers captain Devon Modeste also departed at the end of last season, and now plays with promotion-bound Super League leaders Club Sando, who he is attempting to bring to the top flight.

That Police could take the Rangers captain Mc Fee is testimony in itself to the transient nature of the St Ann’s team’s operations. Like Rangers, Police have struggled for years until this season’s revival, which saw them climb to second in the League before losing a top-of-the-table clash 2-1 to W Connection on Friday.

Rangers have become a truck stop to many footballers. They come to get “gas” and recover, but few of the good ones stay.

Case in point, Trinidad and Tobago national keeper Williams, who briefly made a stop at Rangers following his fallout with his long-time club W Connection. Williams needed playing time to be considered for Trinidad and Tobago’s 2013 Gold Cup squad and got that at Rangers. In August, he moved to Central FC.

“We lose our players because they are getting better offers,” admitted Rangers’ director of operations manager Richard Piper. “Jan-Michael is getting $9,000 from Central. How can we keep him? James was getting $3,500 by us, and Jabloteh promise him $6,000, so he’s gone; and Mc Fee is guaranteed $7,000 (as a policeman). We simply cannot afford to keep them.”

Rangers have generally only been able to sign senior players on short contracts, but the plan is to sign their youth stars to three-year deals and build for the future.

“This way we hope that in the next three years we can build a strong and very competitive squad,” Piper said,

Meanwhile, on the field, there was no repeat of September’s mad shootout between Rangers and Jabloteh on Saturday at Larry Gomes Stadium. Just Baptiste’s second half winner.

Jabloteh and Rangers set the Pro League alight three months ago when the season-opening match produced 11 goals. The St Ann’s team comfortably led 3-1 at the half before losing by a 6-5 margin.

Jabloteh did not even have a team three weeks before the start of the season. Four-time professional league champions, they only made a late decision to rejoin the Pro League having fallen into financial difficulty in 2012 after the financial collapse of main sponsors CLICO and withdrew from the competition. But, despite picking up some “greenhorns”, Jabloteh still retained enough financial clout to attract a couple players with Pro League-experience, quality players like Rennie Britto and proven goal-scorer Baptiste.

Once again, Jabloteh depended heavily on Baptiste and Britto to make the difference on Saturday. On the half hour, Baptiste’s through ball set Britto free, but the wide midfielder lost his footing at a crucial time with Rangers keeper Akel Clarke at his mercy. However, Britto provided the cross which Baptiste headed home early in the second half to win the match.

Despite their problems, Rangers are always competitive. Soon after going behind, their left midfielder Jelani Peters hit wide from a good position, and Kennedy Isle also tested Jabloteh’s former T&T youth keeper Kevin Dodds with a curling shot, but could not beat him.