Coke aiming to take one step closer to Trophy joy
Ian Coke is aiming for some silverware in his first season as player-coach of Boulevard who take on neighbours Devonshire Cougars tomorrow at St David’s in one of four Friendship Trophy quarter-final ties.
The Blazers’ only appearance in the final was back in 1985 when they beat Devonshire Colts 3-2, but Coke thinks his team can be a threat in this year’s competition.
“Three victories and we’re champions, it doesn’t get more simple than that,” Coke stressed. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on, that’s what has got us motivated.”
After a lone season at Dandy Town which ended with a knee injury in March, Coke rejoined Boulevard this season.
However, they had the worst possible start, losing their first five games to champions PHC, promoted sides BAA and Paget, and then X-Roads and Robin Hood.
Now they have taken ten points from their last four games to climb out of the bottom two, though only a point separates from their opponents.
“We have to get at them as early as possible, we know that Cougars are a team that fight to the end,” Coke said. “We’re not going to be complacent given their poor form.
“We want to do the right things, things that we trained on. In a boxing match when you get punched, the whole game plan changes, but I don’t think so here. Once we stick to what we want to do we can make it successful.”
Boulevard played Cougars in the league on November 3, beating them 3-1 as Clay Darrell, Aldonte Smith and Ernest Trott scored the goals, while Allan Douglas replied for Cougars. Douglas netted a hat-trick last weekend in the loss to BAA but also picked up a red card that has ruled him out of tomorrow’s match.
Coke, who is settling into the job as player-coach, is satisfied that confidence is growing in the team. “I’m warming up to it, the nerves are settled in the camp in regards to the uncertainty of an inexperienced coach,” he said.
“It took some time to get everybody to buy-in to the cause and remaining focused on the ultimate goal which is uniting as a team, first and foremost. Everything is possible after that, once we get everybody to believe in the cause.”
Coke has led from the front on the field, scoring six goals in four matches, all braces against X-Roads, Somerset and North Village, last weekend in a 3-3 draw. “I’m disappointed, it should have been all hat-tricks, but I will take it as it comes,” he said.
“The team didn’t have any doubts about me as a player, maybe the doubts came as a coach when it can be hard to accept your peer as the coach. It took awhile for everybody to sign on to that.
“Coming back, I didn’t know I was going to get the role. I came back as a player, the availability as coach was thrown in the air and I was asked by a few of the executives if I didn’t mind taking on the role for the future.
“When I looked back at the kids we were coaching in the youth ranks, in five years time they will be a pool of players to pick from so I can see why they would have chosen me.”
Coke is making a good recovery from the knee injury that ended his season. He is confident there are still plenty of goals left in his boots, and still has hopes of returning to the national team soon.
The injury came at the worst possible time, in a match against Young Men’s Social Club, just as the Bermuda team was getting set to play two friendlies against Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados in the Caribbean. The Town striker was forced to withdraw from the squad after dislocating his knee in the match at Police Field which Town won 7-3.
Coke also missed Bermuda’s first three matches in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League qualifiers but is now back playing and scoring goals.
“Last Sunday’s game was the first time I didn’t use a knee brace since being back,” he revealed. “I’m still strengthening it. I’m looking to join in the next training session after being on the sidelines. Sometimes a return to local football isn’t the same as a return to the international stage.
“I probably could have been ready for the last match, but I know for sure I wasn’t up for that challenge.”
All Sunday’s Friendship and Shield matches will be double-headers starting at noon and 2.30. In the opening Shield match at St David’s, Hamilton Parish will play Wolves.
At Bernard Park, Shield champions Southampton Rangers will play St George’s before North Village take on Robin Hood in the Friendship. Somerset Trojans face a tough home match against champions PHC at Somerset where Somerset Eagles take on Young Men’s Social Club in the Shield opener.
The two matches at St John’s Field will see Devonshire Colts playing Vasco in the Shield and Dandy Town taking on X-Roads. Town will no doubt be looking to avenge the heavy loss they suffered to X-Roads on November 4, a 6-0 thrashing when Donavan Thompson scored four times.
The Friendship and Shield semi-finals will take place next Sunday, and on Boxing Day, with the finals scheduled for New Year’s Day. The BFA confirmed yesterday next Sunday’s semi-final double-header will be at Devonshire Rec while the final will take place at Somerset. The venue for the Boxing Day matches is not yet confirmed.
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