The National Premier League (NPL) is at its halfway stage, and all the teams still have a chance to advance to the semi-finals, although some are more mathematical than others.The advent of end-of-round finals gives the lower-placed teams an even better chance of advancing to the semi-finals, as there is the chance of earning bonus points.Last year, I was quick to point out that the Premier League is really two Leagues, that is, six teams with a chance of advancing to the semi-finals each year, and six teams fighting to avoid relegation.
Last time, Waterhouse flopped big time, after leading well past the first round, and failed to make it to the semi-finals.Arnett Gardens never really got going, and failed to make the semi-finals for the first time in six years, and so Village United sneaked into the semi-finals for the second time in two years, and was outclassed both times. (Waterhouse and Arnett failed for different reasons, not football).This makes one wonder if they were worthy of the semi-finals’ tag they enjoyed for two straight seasons.
So this year, under the leadership of the new President of Waterhouse, Sports Plus Limited’s Managing Director, Peter Hibbert, Waterhouse is in pole position, and seems a safe bet to waltz into the semi-finals.Portmore United, after sidestepping Lenworth Hyde Sr., has turned over the coaching duties to Mr. Paul Young, who has chalked up some five victories on the trot.Last season’s champion, Tivoli Gardens, is now getting into top gear, after an indifferent start seemed destined to reach the last four.
Tivoli Gardens, the defending champion, seemed to be having some problems.This was the point last season, when they moved to the top of the standing and never looked back.However, they are not their old selves, and the feeling throughout the camp is that all may not be well, which forced the Club President to call a meeting, after their loss to Portmore.Nevertheless, I expect the champions to also reach the semi-finals.The last slot is now left for a straight fight between Arnett Gardens and Harbour View.
First, let us look at Harbour View.In the first round, they ran circles around all the Premier League teams, won the Caribbean Club Championships, defeating Tivoli Gardens in the finals.At least eight of their players represented the National senior or under-20 teams in numerous matches, and the chicken came home to roost.Harbour View ran the opposing teams ragged, and when these players represented the country, they ran even harder, but alas, they got tired and could not run as fast, or sustain the pace.In addition, National players do not want to get injured during club matches, as this will blight their chances of playing for the National teams, because their aim is to be seen on the international level so they can get a professional contact abroad.Harbour View has now hit a brick wall, and we will see if the Coach can keep the players fresh.In recent times, they have lost to Constant Spring in the Western Union Jackie Bell Knockout semi-finals, and recently lost to Arlington at home, then to Portmore United and Arnett Gardens.Harbour View needs to go back to the drawing board.
Arnett Gardens has the deepest squad in the Premier League, but has excess midfield players.Earlier in the season, the members played out of their positions in order to facilitate playing some star players.This squad is so deep that Keith Kelly is on the National team, but plays under-21 for Arnett Gardens, and has not yet started in the senior team this year.Arnett’s problem is that they are a bit short of natural defenders, although they boast the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.As the saying goes - offence wins matches, but defence wins the championship.
The final placing will go down to the head-to-head clashes between these two teams.The team that comes out on top will quality for the semi-finals, and if this is the case, then the ‘junglists’ have the edge, as they always seem to be able to get the better of Harbour View.
Of the other seven teams at this time, they only have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.