Bodden Town soared for ‘Bird’

It was a scrappy game with lots of contentious incidents, questionable decisions by the officials and few highlights, but at least Bodden Town are Premier League champions for all the right reasons. 

They have played exemplary football in good spirit but winning the league was more than just a casual intention, they also did it for late teammate Gerome “Bird” Graham, who tragically died from an undetected enlarged heart in training almost a year ago.  

Bodden Town only needed a point from their last two games to prevent Scholars International from retaining the title.  

It came on Sunday at West Bay’s Ed Bush stadium with a 1-1 draw against Scholars. Dwayne “Gaza” Wright scored from a penalty and although Damalay Howelle equalised late in the match, BT got the point to spark wild celebrations.  

BT also have the FA Cup final against Roma to look forward to at the TE McField Annex on 19 May.  

The most emotional Bodden Town team member was Kareem James, Gerome’s brother. Another brother, Jondane Dawkins, 12, also plays for BT.  

“I’m so excited,” Kareem, 22, said. “We’ve achieved what we planned to accomplish. Nothing’s greater than success and I’m really proud of my team.  

“We did this for our brother and we’re going for the FA Cup, too, to do the double. It’s an honour for a first eastern districts team to win the Premier League.” 

Bodden Town finished second to Scholars last year, but Bird’s death gave them the incentive to train harder and remain totally focused.  

Coach Elbert McLean was understandably emotional. Bird was more than just a player to him. 

“Words just cannot express how I feel,” McLean said. “All season long this was our goal. We said nothing about the FA Cup and we want to bring that home, too.  

“My heart is filled now. It’s not all over yet. We still have a league match to play and got to get set for the FA Cup final. We want the double. 

“I want to say thanks to my players, other coaches and managing staff. We have worked well this season. It has been rough, but we don’t feel the pain now.  

“I miss a good player. Bird is there with me and my family daily and it makes us strong. We miss him dearly and we have not forgotten about him.” 

Much of BT’s success stems from Gaza’s 19 league and one FA Cup goal. He looks set to be the league’s top scorer for a third successive season.  

Gaza said: “I don’t even know what to do! Even though I’m injured I know I’m going to do a lot of celebration with my boys because we’ve worked very hard for this.  

“We dedicated the season to Bird and the whole Bodden Town family is proud of him right now.” 

Sports Minister Mark Scotland is also president of Bodden Town Football Club. He said: “This means a lot for this team which I have been working with for many, many years.  

“With Elbert, Kennedy Kelly (manager), Al Frederick (youth coach) who isn’t here now we took the club over almost 15 years ago and completely focused on our youth development programme and tonight it was wonderful to see a lot of those players who came through are now Premier League champions for the first time. I’m pleased for the team, Elbert, Kelly and all the coaching staff for what they’ve achieved this season.” 

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