St George’s still on track despite key departures
Things are turning around for St George’s this season after the departure of their three main goalscorers during the summer, with the team in a three-match winning run leading up to their Shield quarter-final clash with holders Southampton Rangers on Sunday.
Jarreau Hayward, the St George’s player-coach, feels his team will be up to the challenge of facing a Rangers side carrying on from where they left off last term. Rangers are leading the table, still unbeaten, and one of the favourites to get promoted.
“We know the quality that Rangers have, but at the same time we don’t underestimate our own qualities,” said Hayward, 35, who took over as coach this season.
St George’s were the previous team to beat Rangers in the league, in February 2017 in the First Division. Under coach Jomar Wilkinson Rangers have gone from strength to strength, beating Paget Lions in last season’s Shield final before losing in the FA Cup final to Robin Hood.
“The last time we played [Rangers] they beat us 1-0; it was a really good game and we just want to show improvement,” Hayward said. “Rangers are more established, they have national squad players and have an excellent coach in my good friend Jomar.
“We’re looking to progress, remain humble, remain hungry and see where we are when we go up against them.”
Hayward has Kerwin Moreno and goalkeeper Freddy Hall as his assistant coaches, with Hall bringing added experience as a former professional in England, the United States and Ireland.
“I just got my B licence, so that was a big contributing factor to me getting the head coach job,” said Hayward, who had a brief stint as a Bermuda player a few years ago.
“My national squad experience was a good one, it taught me a lot about myself and what it takes to achieve at that level. I don’t think fitness wise I was ready and even in some other aspects I thought I could use some improvements. I really appreciated my time with the national squad. I learnt a lot and now I’m trying to get my younger players ready for that experience as well.”
The East Enders lost Donavan Thompson and Jahron Dickinson to X-Roads and Jarazinho Bassett to Rangers, with the trio scoring 31 goals between them already this season with their respective clubs. Bassett netted four in Rangers’ 8-1 win over Devonshire Colts last weekend to take his season tally to 11.
Thompson has been grabbing all the headlines with his 17 goals in nine leagues games for X-Roads, who are riding high in the Premier Division.
St George’s clearly missed the trio’s goals at the start of the season when they failed to win any of their first four games.
However, a recent good run, inspired by youngster Sage Paynter’s five goals in the last three games, has lifted Colts up to fourth in the table, although they are still ten points off the second promotion spot.
“Freddy, Kerwin and I were appointed the coaches so late in the off-season we really didn’t have a pre-season,” Hayward explained. “The first four games or so we were really trying to figure out what we had as a team and how we should play.
“I think we dropped nine points that we probably should have won and those points would have put us in second place right now.”
Two of their early draws were against Somerset Eagles and Hamilton Parish, who are now second and third.
“As well as Donavan and Jahron, who we lost to X-Roads, we lost Jarazinho to Rangers,” Hayward acknowledged. “At first we were definitely disappointed to lose three of our main scorers but it gave an opportunity for our younger players.
“It was a good thing for those three players to gain some much needed experience. I know they are St George’s at heart and when they come back they will be welcome additions.
“Donavan had every right to want to do something more ambitious with his career and is doing well. We applaud him; I think he is the best goalscorer on the island and I’m glad he’s up there proving himself.
“Our job at the club, where I’m also director of football [and under-15 coach], is to make sure the programme is not just ready for the youth coming in but also the experience coming back.”