Photo: UWI FC head coach Marcel Gayle is hoping to take his team into the finals of the Red Stripe Premier League for the first time. They host Portmore United in the second leg of their semifinals at the UWI Bowl with a narrow 2-1 advantage.
After a long layoff due to Portmore United’s participation in the CFU Club Championships and having their training sessions being interrupted by the weather, the University of the West Indies FC is ready to go. So says their head coach Marcel “Fuzzy” Gayle who has taken the UWI to the semifinals of the Red Stripe Premier League for the first time and in only their second season in the competition.
They won the first leg of the semifinal 2-1 away to Portmore and will take that advantage into the second leg on Sunday where they hope to complete the job and book a spot in the final.
“The weather has affected us somewhat, but we have to get the show on the road. It was just one day that we missed training, we are alright, we won’t complain about it,” said an upbeat Gayle.
Gayle is undecided on whether or not the long layoff will have a negative effect on the team.
“It might and it might not. We are more worried about concentration. We are doing everything now to get there mentally. If you are not physically equipped right now, it’s hard to train to get there if you don’t have it already.
“Mentally I think we are there, I think the players all know what is at stake. This (long break) was there before and we understand that this was coming, so we won’t try to find any excuses we just have to go out there.”
The UWI went behind to an early goal against Portmore in the first leg and Gayle is wary of a similar occurrence at the UWI Bowl. He is mindful of the threat that Ricardo Morris brings, but says they have to worry about the entire Portmore outfit.
“We won’t know until the day of the game, probably the first thirty minutes, then we will see our mettle. Ricardo Morris is a quality player, probably one of the best midfielders in the country but Portmore is a team so stopping Morris alone not good enough, so we plan to stop Portmore overall . We can’t allow them to play because if we allow them to play they can destroy us. We saw it in the first 15 minutes in the first leg, we took a little bit of time to settle down, we gave them a little bit more room than we should and they scored on us.
“You can’t simulate that game situation in training but we will try to manage it as best as possible because it is more manageable right now.”
While admitting to nerves, the former Waterhouse assistant coach says it’s a good thing to have at this time.
“Nerves are always there, I would be dead if I didn’t have any and it is a good sign. When I feel this way I feel better because when I get complacent I will take things for granted. I know I am not complacent so it keeps me on the edge and it keeps me going so that is a good thing for me personally.”
Gayle is banking on ambition and experience to get his team over the line on Sunday.
“The players are upbeat, they want to do it. They have some personal goals for themselves and also for the team, so they want to go out there and try to achieve it. There are some players in the squad with seniority, they are going to be a catalyst for the younger players. It is a good mix, I think mentally they are there.”
The second leg semifinal will be played at the UWI Bowl on Sunday starting at 3pm and the winner gets a spot in the final with former champions Arnett Gardens at 8pm on Monday June 5th.