Friendship forms backbone of Bermuda defence
Jaylon Bather and Danté Leverock have developed an innate understanding since teaming up at the heart of Bermuda's defence.
The pair's strong partnership was key to the island's defensive solidity during the Nations League qualifiers and they will once again be relied upon to keep the opposition forward lines quiet during the Gold Cup campaign.
Bather and Leverock have been firm friends since their early teens, first playing for the National Academy and then Bermuda Hogges in the USL Premier Development League.
They also played alongside each other at English non-League side Ilkeston under coach Shaun Goater and briefly continued their connection at Premier Division side Robin Hood before Leverock's move to Narva Trans in Estonia.
Bather is under no illusions about the hard task of keeping Haiti, Costa Rica and Nicaragua at bay, although he believes his close friendship with Leverock, the Bermuda captain, will certainly help.
“Danté is one of my closest friends,” Bather said. “We have been playing together since we were in the junior [national team] age groups.
He was a striker and I was a left back back then. We've built a friendship and a partnership over the years.
“When you trust your centre-back partner, it's the best thing ever. I know he's got my back and I've got his. We have confidence in each other.”
Bather, 26, credits his season at Ilkeston in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League in 2016-17 for toughening him up and developing his game.
“Just the amount of games in England helped bring my game up,” he said. “It was hard and something I wasn't used to in Bermuda.
“Playing 40 or 50 games a season as opposed to 20 in Bermuda is a big difference. Shaun Goater is a very good coach. He knows what he's taking about.”
Bather, who spent two years at college in Albany, Georgia, playing for Darton State College, admits playing in the Gold Cup will be beyond his “wildest dreams” and fully expects to have butterflies when he runs out at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica for Bermuda's opener against Haiti.
“I never thought I'd get to play in something so big,” he said. “There's definitely going to be butterflies and it's the biggest stage I have ever played.
“There's no reason why we can't get a result against Haiti. We've got a strong enough team and we're gelling together nicely.”
Bermuda face Haiti in their opening group B match in San José, Costa Rica, on Sunday.
Stephen Wright travelled to San José, Costa Rica, courtesy of JetBlue, which provided flights between Bermuda, Boston, Orlando and San José. Flights available at www.jetblue.com