Thursday, 24 May 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - The Antigua & Barbuda selection committee has named the 25 players that will leave the country on Friday for a two-week training camp in Sarasota, Florida to prepare for the upcoming FIFA World Cup semi-finals games starting 8 June against the United States.
Also named are ten men who will make up the management squad that will travel with the players.
The team will play three away games and three home games against the United States, Jamaica and Guatemala.
There are 18 locally based players and seven English based players from a variety of teams in England that will get ready for battle.
Manager of the team Fernando “Nando” Abraham told Caribarena.com that it was a difficult task picking the team with so many players to choose from.
“We can only pick 25 players. When we looked at the number of players who practiced so hard to try and make the team it was a tough decision to leave out some of these players,” Abraham stated.
The manager mentioned three players in particular who he believes were hard done by their none-selection but they should continue to train and since they may be able to represent the country in the future.
“When we looked at Lexi (Rolston Phoenix), Kirwan (Eugene Kirwan) and Pennyfeather (Ken Pennyfeather) and how they practiced it was really tough that these guys could not make the team.
“The good thing for these guys though is that we will be playing matches in September after the start of the premier division so they still have an opportunity to make the team.
“I would urge them not to give up hope and to keep practicing,” the Manager said.
There are three goal keepers selected including Olson “Heights” Ford of Willikies football club, the man with the ‘wing span of an eagle.’
Ford was a late addition and was expected to leave for Barbados on Wednesday to clear his travel documents.
Molvin James of Old Road and Keita Decastro of Parham are the other two goal keepers travelling with the team.
Up front, Peter “Big Pete” Byers leads the pack which includes Dexter Blackstock of Nottingham Forest of the Championship League in England.
The man who scored the goal to lift the Benna Boyz over Haiti last November Kerry “Arab” Skepple of Parham is also on the frontline with this season’s golden boot recipient Stephan “Tommy” Smith of Lime Old Road.
Smith led Old Road to its first national championship this season.
Also on the frontline is rookie Lloyd Jeremy of second division club Potters.
The midfield is packed with English based players led by Mikele Leigertwood of Redding, the team recently promoted to the English Premier League.
Justin Cochrane who trains with the Totterham reserve team is also in the engine room of the offence with Joshua Parker and Keiran Murtagh of Woking.
The other middle men are Lawson “Boy Blue” Robinson and Randolph “Etty” Burton of All Saints United, the speedster Tamarley “Ziggy”
Thomas of Hoppers, the veteran Ranjae Christian of Empire and Kimoi Alexander from Sea View farm football club.
In defense, captain George “Sowa” Dublin may be the most experienced with two of the other English based players Marc Joseph of Kennington and Marvin McCoy of Wycombe.
They will have help from Parham’s Akeem “Leppy” Thomas, Luke Blakeley of Hoppers, Karanja Mack of Sap and Bassa’s central defender Troy Dublin.
Quinton Griffith, one of the most exciting midfielders in the national league is a utility player that may be called upon to play either defense or midfield.
Travelling with the management team will be two sports scientists Thomas Heselton and Matthew Aldred who also plays with the Barracudas.
According to the manager since there is no official physiotherapist on tour, the two will work along with Carl Casey, the team’s trainer to take care of the players’ physiotherapy needs.
“They (scientists) are necessary to take care of a number of issues including nutrition and along with Carl they will take care of the players’ fitness as well,” Abraham stated.
Coach Tom Curtis will have his technical consultant John Duncan on board as well as assistant coach Rowan “Porridge” Benjamin.
There are also two goal keeping coaches, Urvin Lewis and Janiel “Board” Simon who will double as equipment consultants with Danny Benjamin.
The team will continue its schools’ tour today when they travel to Ottos Comprehensive and Jennings Secondary before leaving the island for Tampa, Florida on Friday.
Communications consultant Mark Bowers will also be on tour to disseminate news of the team’s preparation at the IMG training center in Sarasota.
The team will battle USA at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on 8 June in a game that Abraham has predicted will be a victory for the Benna Boyz.