Roma United will be back in the Premier League next season, which is a relief for many Jamaican football fans in Cayman because the nucleus of the side comes from the land of wood and water.
One of the most entertaining yet unpredictable teams locally, there is never a dull moment when Roma plays. The banter from onlookers is worth being there for no matter what is happening on the pitch.
Roma sealed their promotion from the First Division to the top flight on Saturday, winning 4-0 at East End through goals by Gavin Reynolds, Gawayne Speed, Craig Carridice and Naresh “Chin” Hart.
There were many highlights in Roma’s season, particularly the 16-1 drubbing of Prospect, a really hard fought away draw at Cayman Brac in which Roma’s keeper Adwen Simpson was badly injured making a crucial save, a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Future and a 3-2 victory over Cayman Brac recently at the TE McField Annex.
Roma manager George Thomas is also head coach of the Under-23 team. The Jamaican rates their most difficult opponents as Brac “who boast a wealth of youth and experience and Future who have a very good crop of young talent.”
Bringing in David “Starkey” Harding to assist head coach Lenox “Lalas” White was a master stroke. Both have a winning mentality and have done a phenomenal job in preparing the team to be motivated and focused on qualifying for the Premier League, said Thomas.
“I think Roma will do well in the premiership because we have a good mix of youth and experience and our two coaches are extremely knowledgeable and can motivate players to find their full potential.”
Born and raised in Harbour View, Kingston, Thomas attended Harbour View Primary School before attending Chapelton School in Clarendon.
He passed an exam to attend Edwin Allen High school and is brimming with pride that their girls won the celebrated Champs track and field title last month. “I just had to put that plug in there for my alma mater,” he said.
Thomas represented Edwin Allen in football, cricket and basketball. “I have always had a passion for sports and coaching and recently took a FIFA women’s coaching course and the knowledge gained from that will aid me in someday establishing a women’s program at Roma.”
According to Thomas, Roma’s best players this season were the captain Kiegel “Stamma” Atkinson, Steve Dunkley, Simpson, Kemar “16” Boothe, Carridice, Alexander Dunn, Narval Buchanan, and Reynolds who is the team’s top scorer with 12 so far.
They will have to be at the top of their game this Sunday in the FA Cup final against double champs Bodden Town who have already won the inaugural President’s Cup, look likely to retain the Premier League title and also remain unbeaten domestically since last week. BT also won the FA Cup last term. Thomas is confident his side can upset the odds but preferred to keep his own counsel on how they will achieve the seemingly impossible task.
When a team gets promoted, they always need to bolster the squad to ensure relegation does not quickly follow and to be competitive.
“We have a few new players joining the Roma family next season but they will remain a secret for now,” Thomas said. “The club would like to show its appreciation to Rhino Rebar for providing us with much sponsorship to the latter part of last season and this current season and also to Saxon for providing our U-23 team with uniforms.”
Thomas also thanked Roma president Robert Sairsingh and vice-president Mark Campbell for giving him the opportunity to manage the side.
“We are a very diverse club that encompasses people from all over the globe and have players from Cayman, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua and India.
“At Roma, our aim is to nurture young talent, not just into great athletes but great individuals of good character who will hold true the core values of the club and represent us well wherever in the world they may be and who will be able to have a positive impact on society and be an example to all,” he said.
Thomas also congratulated Roma’s netball team on being crowned champions this season. “They have been through a lot this season and winning the title is just a testament to their fighting spirit and determination and never say die attitude.”