North Side are the latest First Division champions relishing the challenge of the Premier League next season. North Side finished ahead of Academy who hope to get in the top flight via the play-offs against Roma United.
Neil Prendergast has been with North Side for 11 years, the last five as president. He said: “We’ve been close to promotion in recent years but we sorted out a couple of issues which made the difference.
“They involved finance, sponsorship, coach and having a youth programme but thanks to the Ministry of Sports and members of the community and support from the Cayman Islands Football Association and the hard work from the players and the fact the core of the players has been together for the last five years, it finally paid off.
“We just kept plugging the holes with the missing links. A little of this success goes to coach Bobby McLaren (now working in Jamaica) who coached the team for two seasons. He set a programme and ethics in place and the players bought into it and thank God the two coaches that followed only tweaked the programme and haven’t made many changes which helped to this success this season.
“The whole team has been great and supported each other superbly but if I had to name a few I would say Floyd McKenzie, the captain Cadassie Pollard, Gary McIntosh, Geovanni Wesley, Orlando Powell, Dwayne Wilson, Ronald Davis, Derron Galaub and Guiton King were the players that kept encouraging the team to push on and stood behind me.”
Pollard received the Foster’s League trophy from referees’ association president Alfredo Whittaker. Prendergast has nothing but praise for his long-serving skipper. “Cadassie hes been with the club since 2003 and been a leader and very influential person on and off the field,” said Prendergast.
Although it will be tough, Prendergast is not too worried about the step up in class. “We’ve played every one of the premier teams before and we have had some success and some failures but we think once we’ve enjoy this promotion a little we will regroup and plug a few spots on the team with some up and coming youths we want to look after and train hard in the off season and come out and give our best and play some good North Side football. We will set our goals then.”
Prendergast has learnt much of what to do and not to do from seeing promoted teams go up to the Premier League in the past. “Togetherness and right personnel with same goals not star players that just want to play on Sundays but players that want to win for the club and fans, mix youth players with seniors and we’ve got to play faster as the Premier League is a little faster.”
Prendergast does not expect to recruit new players being difficult as he is relying on the nucleus of the present team.
“The nucleus if not all of the team will be back but there will be new faces and I don’t feel we will have a problem recruiting as long as we recruit the right players. The club’s biggest target will be the youths as not many youngsters in North Side are coming forward and we know the talent is there but the club is focused on that issue and hopes by continuing to work with the primary school and the new high school in Frank Sound that will go a long way in fixing that issue especially since the club has finally secured a full time coach, Barry Wilson. He is willing to work in the community and has helped the club secure the championship in his first season. We hope this success will trickle down into success of the youth programme.
“We will have a player assessment on all players once the reserve league is completed with coach Barry and he will decide the areas that need addressing and then we will address those as best as we can. We will not leave any stone unturned and I have already instructed him that the strength should come from young players but at the same time putting the right nucleus of players together. We have two youngsters in the squad going off to college in Brian Robinson and Geovanni Wesley next season and we will have to replace them hence the focus on youths.”