At the start of the Premier League campaign, Cayman Athletic Sports Club – being the youngest of the eight teams – were among the most likely to be struggling.
That was despite their good form at the end of last season, when they were unbeaten in their last seven games. Many dismissed it as lack of motivation by other teams rather than crediting Athletic maturing rapidly.
Athletic’s technical director, Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, was justified in backing his youngsters because they go into the festive season full of cheer having defied expectations and early season setbacks, and are placed second in the league.
Most of the side are still in their teens having graduated from Athletic’s excellent – and sorely underfunded – youth program.
Led by 19-year-old captain Matthew Suberan, Athletic have won six of their 12 matches so far, losing only twice and amassing 22 points.
Elite Sports Club tops the league with 23 points, Athletic is second and Scholars International are third on 18, with reigning champs Bodden Town fourth on 17.
The fact that Athletic’s David Connolly is the league’s leading scorer with 12 and teammate Jamaal Seymour – Gillie’s son – has notched five himself, speaks volumes of their open, entertaining style.
For such a young side, mental strength is a plus too; against Roma last week at the TE McField Annex, Athletic were two down early on before showing their grit by hitting back with four strikes to win comfortably.
“That showed their character against a strong team, that they didn’t give up,” coach Seymour said. “Shakur Welcome saved a penalty when we were 2-1 down and I gave him our man of the match just for that.”
Seymour added that his side typically started slow, but once they found their rhythm and used the flanks more, were able to break down Roma.
He added that the league’s overall standard this season is so high that it makes for more even, exciting games. “The teams are balanced, no one team is super strong,” he said. “Cayman Brac are the weakest but even they in spells give you a hard fight, proven by beating Scholars and drawing twice with Bodden Town.”
In addition to youngsters like Martin Webb, Joshewa Frederick, Kevin Foster, Jorronie McLean, Jahmelie Durrant, Ernie Jacques, Maxwell Thomas, Christopher Ebanks and goalkeeper Welcome, Seymour is grateful to the experienced Jamaican pair of Richard Reid and Gareth Fraser for their stabilizing influence. Utility man Kyle Santamaria is another experienced player Seymour relies on.
Mindful that the three-week Christmas break can be detrimental to waistlines and fitness, Seymour has emphasized to his players the importance of maintaining their discipline and is not giving them too much time off training.
“Their technical ability is all there, it’s just their fitness level that is vital now,” he said. “We’re also looking at the January transfer window.
“It would be nice if two or three players join us, maybe some of the better players in the First Division. We’re like the pros and don’t want anyone mediocre, they have to be quality.”