Playing the waiting game
Winston Trott Jr wonders if he will get to complete his first season as coach of PHC Zebras, after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases disrupted the football and other sports earlier this month.
Football has not been played since PHC beat North Village 3-1 in a Saturday match on December 5, with the following day’s remaining league fixtures called off for health reasons. Two wins and a draw in their last three matches has seen PHC climb to third place, level on 17 points with Devonshire Cougars who have a better goal difference.
Robin Hood had just opened a five-point lead heading to the halfway stage of the season.
“We had a run going, but it’s safety first and you can’t take any chances,” Trott said of the decision to postpone sport. “It’s disappointing, but I understand.”
It has now been three weekends of no football, with clubs wondering when action will resume. Last weekend should have been the quarter-final round of both the Friendship Trophy and Shield competitions, with four teams in each getting ready for what would have been the semi-finals on Boxing Day. The finals were set for New Year’s Day.
PHC were hoping to be one of those teams still in the competition, a competition that now faces being scrapped for the first time in its 56-year history, with Southampton Rangers wondering if they will get to defend the title they won last year for a fourth time.
PHC have the most wins in the competition with 12, while Village, the team they should have played on Sunday, have 11 titles along with Somerset Trojans. who were eliminated in the preliminary round.
“The players understand, they are still doing stuff on their own. It’s our new reality, I guess,” Trott said. “We had to call off training the Tuesday after that [Village] game.
“We stay in contact with the players, then when we get the chance to get together, it’s back to work.”
Football is expected to resume sometime in January, but already there is a backlog of matches that could pose scheduling problems for the Bermuda Football Association.
“Hopefully, people are responsible and we can get a hold on it so that we can get back to some kind of normal,” Trott said. “You just have to make sure everyone is all right and that we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Trott has enjoyed his first season as coach, with the team winning five of their nine matches in the league after a slow start. They were expected to have their squad boosted over Christmas by the return of players from school.
“Up to this point I have enjoyed it,” he said. “It has had its ups and downs; exciting at times and stressful.
“We had 30 guys training before we went on the break. Then there are guys coming back from school, so it was definitely going to swell. It was six or seven who would have played in the PDL tournament.
“It was a big group and basically that’s where most of my stress was coming from — the team selection and then thinking about the Christmas break when players were coming back.”
Enrique Russell is one of those players who is grabbing his chances this season under the new coach, after the departure of nine players during the summer transfer period. The 20-year-old great-grandson of former PHC legend Earl “Townsey” Russell, who died this summer, is leading the PHC scoring with eight goals, including a late penalty in the recent win over North Village.
This year marks the tenth season that the Friendship Trophy was moved from an April final to New Year’s Day. The switch was made in 2012 to avoid clashing with the Carifta Games, which Bermuda hosted in April that year for the fourth time.
The Expansion League Festive Tournament, scheduled for this month, never got started while the Bermuda School Sports Federation’s knockout finals, set for December 12, were also scrapped because of the pandemic.
The first round of the FA Cup is scheduled for the weekend of January 16 and 17. The season is due to end in April with the FA Cup final on April 18, followed by the International Kappa Classic from April 22 to 25.