Players deserve title success, insists Morton
Barring a major upset, PHC Zebras will wrap up a tenth league title on Sunday when they finish their season against bottom team Young Men's Social Club.
The Zebras, who hold a three-point lead over defending champions Robin Hood, need just a draw at Police Field against winless Social Club to clinch a first title in ten years. While it would appear to be a foregone conclusion, coach Scott Morton will not consider the job done until the final whistle.
“My players have never been complacent and that's why we're in the position we're in,” said Morton, who is in his second season as coach. Last year, PHC lost out to Hood on goal difference after both teams finished on 41 points. PHC were not able to seal the title in their final home match against Devonshire Cougars despite winning 6-1.
Hood kept their slim hopes alive with a 15-0 thrashing of relegated Social Club the previous night but now, after last weekend's international break, PHC can finally complete the job.
“We've stayed humble, committed and focused and after the week off there is now the anticipation of getting that final game over with,” he said.
“To our benefit, seven of our players [Daren Usher, Keishon Bean, Casey Castle, Marco Warren, Cecoy Robinson, Quinaceo Hunt and Na'eem Griffith] were with the national team [in Antigua and Barbados] so they were travelling and playing. The core of our squad has still been in high-competition mode.”
PHC have been the dominant team this season, having already won the Charity Cup, Dudley Eve Trophy and Friendship Trophy. Their only blemish was their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Hood, which denied them the opportunity of a clean sweep.
However, PHC, with 48 league and knockout titles overall since the Bermuda Football League and Bermuda Football Union were combined in 1963 to end segregation, have still been the most consistent team this season. They were undefeated until Dandy Town beat them on January 21 to spark a mini slump, losing their next game to North Village before drawing with Hood. They never looked back after reversing that 3-0 loss to Town in the FA Cup, going on to win their next three league games to keep their grip on first place.
“When I think back to pre-season and how committed the players have been, how supportive the club has been to myself and the coaching staff, it's just been unbelievable,” Morton said. “This is just reward for us for the amount of work we've put in and the commitment and belief of the players. The results speak for themselves.”
PHC also have four schoolboys who have been regulars in the squad this season, Bean and Jalun Hassell, of CedarBridge Academy, and Hunt and Jaheim Iris, of Berkeley Institute. The future looks bright for the club judging by the 11 teams they fielded in the Kappa Classic last weekend.
“It's a conveyor belt at PHC, this programme is going to be around for many, many years,” Morton assured. “It's a testament to all the work by different people over the years, and also the persons in charge now, coaches and administrators.
“It bodes well for the whole community. The platform was already laid so it was easier to come on and add my piece to the puzzle. The work is continually being done.”
Morton added: “It's always been part of my philosophy to give young players an opportunity. Obviously they have to earn it, and as any of them will tell you I don't make it easy for them. They are humble players.
“PHC is a huge team in Bermuda and are used to winning, which is good. That's why I took on the job, to be able to come in with that pressure on my shoulders and still be able to try to accomplish things.”
The other remaining issue to be decided is the last Dudley Eve Trophy spot, which is being contested by three teams. Boulevard hold that spot but need a win against Hood to be certain of sixth.
If Boulevard lose then the winners of Somerset Trojans and X-Roads will take the sixth spot. Three points separate the three teams, so a Somerset and X-Roads draw would keep Boulevard in sixth. In the other matches Village meet Cougars at Bernard Park and Dandy Town host Flanagan's Onions at St John's Field.