Unbeaten Rangers on a double mission
Jomar Wilkinson, the Southampton Rangers coach, is not taking all the credit for transforming the team in his first season at the helm.
Rangers remain the only unbeaten team this season after knocking two Premier Division clubs, Devonshire Cougars and North Village, out of the FA Cup.
They are also through to the semi-finals where they will face another First Division side, Paget Lions.
The Bermuda Football Association confirmed yesterday that Somerset Cricket Club will host the semi-finals on March 13, with Paget and Rangers playing at 7pm and PHC Zebras and Robin Hood at 9pm.
Rangers have already won the Shield Trophy, after beating Paget in the final on New Year's Day, and are also battling with Paget and BAA for one of the two promotion spots.
Two matches against Paget on March 3 and 13, in the league and FA Cup, could define Rangers' season, but it is a case of so far so good for the South Shore club.
“This season has exceeded all my expectations and all the credit to my players, coaching staff, administration and fans in the community,” said Wilkinson, still enjoying their 3-1 win over Village in the quarter-finals last weekend.
“We just need to stay humble and stay honest to allow us to be at our best.”
Wilkinson was replaced as Dandy Town coach more than a year ago after they failed to win any of their first six matches and found themselves near the bottom of the table. They had won the league the previous season.
Wilkinson ended up at Wolves as Torry Davis's assistant for the rest of the season before Rangers secured his services last summer.
Rangers' players quickly bought into Wilkinson's vision and after 13 league matches they have eight wins and five draws, sitting third in the table just three points behind leaders BAA. A first appearance in an FA Cup final since 2011 is also a strong possibility.
“I'm extremely proud of my team and what they have accomplished thus far,” Wilkinson said. “They are an honest group of players with a hunger to improve individually and as a team. To see them in this position playing in the manner in which they are is truly a testament to the fact that hard work does still pay off.
“We're so surprised and appreciative of the fact they have bought into our football philosophy so quickly. We have asked a lot of the boys from preseason and now we're starting to see the fruits of our labour.
“Sunday was a good test for us; it allowed us to gauge the team against opponents in a league that we're aspiring to play in. North Village has a rich history in the FA Cup; they are a powerhouse in Bermuda.”
The win over Village shows Rangers are moving in the right direction under Wilkinson. “We have the utmost respect for Village and we knew it would be a huge task to defeat them, but possible,” he said.
“We approached the game with some caution but not fear. It was more important to us to turn in good performances to earn respect and to promote our product.
“With us revamping our youth programme next season we wanted to show our quality and sell our product to Bermuda. It was vital that we showed up on the big stage with Bermuda watching.”
Rangers boosted their ranks by picking up no fewer than 16 players during the first transfer periods, including defender Darius Cox from Hood along with Donte Brangman and Shannon Coddington-Burchall, who returned to Rangers.
Defender Marquel Nisbett-Tankard returned from Boulevard while Quadir Maynard opted to remain in the First Division after helping Young Men's Social Club get promoted last season.
“We're capable of beating anyone on the day, so it didn't surprise us,” Wilkinson said of the team's cup run.
“Defeating Devonshire Cougars and North Village has been a good learning experience and huge confidence booster for the boys, but that's it.
“Our main priority has always been and still is the First Division title.”
Wilkinson added: “Winning the FA Cup would be a huge bonus and we will do all we can to win it. We didn't have a preference who we got in the next round because any team would be a difficult one this late in the FA Cup.
“Paget have done an admirable job this season, so it's important that we don't take them lightly. Our success so far validates that we're heading in the right direction.”