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Former PHC coaches hail youth programme as key to club’s domination

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The PHC team who won title decider against North Village last week

Major football trophies are hard to come by at the best of time.

But throw in local football’s modern trend of club disloyalty and player movement, and maintaining a consistently elite level of play while vying for top honours becomes impossible for most.

Infrequently there rises an organisation able to produce sustained excellence lengthy enough to be hailed a dynasty.

PHC Zebras, with four Premier Division championships during the past six years and six top-two placings in the last seven years could legitimately lay claim to such a description based on league play alone.

Add to these three Friendship Trophy winners medals, two Dudley Eve Trophies, two Charity Cup victories and an FA Cup in the same era and it is clear who rules Bermuda on the football pitch.

The feats completed by the Warwick-based club in recent times compare favourably with kings of the modern era such as Somerset Trojans, who produced a stunning run of consecutive triple crowns from 1967 to 1970, earning the moniker “Silver City”, while Young Men’s Social Club similarly enjoyed a three-year reign of repeated honours from 1962 to 1965.

Since the turn of the century the only other club approaching PHC has been North Village, who lifted five consecutive FA Cups, three league titles and two Friendship Trophies.

Kyle Lightbourne, former PHC player and coach

Among those lauding Zebras’ 21st century ascendance are former PHC and Bermuda coach Kyle Lightbourne and Scott Morton, who masterminded the first half of PHC’s current period of unrivalled dominance in 2017.

Each referred to the club’s commitment to youth via a well-structured, grassroots programme that catapults talent into the club’s senior ranks, as well as overseas colleges, universities and sports academies.

“I would say they are definitely one of the foremost clubs in Bermuda when it comes to football,” said Lightbourne, a club and Bermuda legend as both player and coach, and who led PHC to league, FA and Martonmere Cup championships in 2007-08.

“They have carved out a reputation as a team that knows how to win trophies. We were built on winning trophies.”

“I think every era goes through different phases. The people before us laid the groundwork and set examples for us to follow.

“My generation had Leroy ”Nibs“ Lewis, who was no nonsense and coached to win while turning boys into men. That tradition has stuck with the club over the years, from generation to generation.

Lightbourne noted how the club has the ability to harmonise youth developmen even as styles of play evolve.

“A lot of people used to look at PHC as a long-ball team, but styles change and PHC has evolved over the years,” said Lightbourne.

“I think as a club they’ve made tremendous strides in the way they operate as a unit.

“They realise that the game is changing, but also that the foundation that they have in place of allowing kids to enjoy playing football and being able to support or send a lot of kids overseas to school to get their education is part of what we do as a community club.

“Similarly other clubs, like North Village have been able to put together similar programmes that help to positively develop young people while also feeding into the senior programmes.”

Scott Morton guided PHC to multiple trphy successes

Morton agreed that player development was a major cause for the club’s sustained prosperity.

“I’ve never thought about the word dynasty and what comes with that, but I’ll use the word dominance in describing PHC and what they have accomplished,” said Morton.

“They certainly have the pedigree and a normal thing for PHC is the conveyor belt. They just continue to have them come through as a conveyor belt would, which is an awesome testament to their youth programme and the club as a whole.

“How they structure even their coaching, with many of their players now becoming coaches and everyone performing while having the desire to give back.

“It’s a phenomenal experience for me to have been a part of and to see how the machine runs, so it’s certainly a dominant era for the club.”

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Published April 11, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 10, 2024 at 3:24 pm)

Former PHC coaches hail youth programme as key to club’s domination

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