Soccer

X-Roads: started from the bottom, now we’re top

  • Strong foundation: Saleem Talbot, the man behind X-Roads, stands in the background as youngsters share in the team’s first promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 2016-17 season, going up as champions.  Just six games into their second season in the top flight, they are top of the table for the second time this season 

 (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)
  • Dashun Cooper, will miss the X-Roads match against Dandy Town tomorrow (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)
  • Not forgotten: Robin Hood players continue to play tributes to remember former team-mate Mazhye Burchall, who died in a road crash six week ago at the age of 20. Here Shakir Smith, a team-mate of Burchall at both PHC and Robin Hood, wears a “Muzzy” armband during the Dudley Eve Trophy semi-finals on Thursday (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

X-Roads are looking to go on another good run after reclaiming the lead in the Premier Division last weekend with their fifth win in six matches.

The Warriors, playing only their second season in the top flight, are showing that their four-game winning start to the season, which put them in first place, wasn’t a fluke. Their recent first loss to champions PHC knocked them off the perch before they regained top spot with their fifth win of the season over Devonshire Cougars after PHC dropped points against Robin Hood.

Saleem Talbot, the X-Roads manager and founder of the team back in the early 2000s when they began in the youth leagues, is preaching that one-game-at-a-time philosophy for the Premier Division’s youngest club. They entered the BFA senior league only in 2004 and achieved a first promotion two years ago.

Already X-Roads are close to surpassing the 20 points they amassed last season, when a loss in their final match against Somerset Trojans denied them a place in the Dudley Eve Trophy. Tomorrow they will host Dandy Town at Garrison Field, aiming for a first win over the Hornets.

“The morale is very high and, frankly, we’re enjoying our football and looking forward to the next contest, which is on Sunday,” Talbot said.

The team’s only blemish was the 2-1 loss to PHC when Tre Ming scored a dramatic last minute winner at PHC Field. “It’s football and we’re not worrying about that,” Talbot said. “It’s already in the past.

“We should at least have drawn the game, which would have been a fair result. We had chances, they had changes and maybe we made more mistakes than them. But there is no doubt we could have won the game.”

Talbot would not be drawn on the team’s aspirations, but there is no doubt that with new signing Donavan Thompson’s goals, they look very likely to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish. “No comment on that right now, it’s still early days,” Talbot said with caution.

“We’re doing our best and looking to be successful, whatever the outcome is. Everything is good so far, no complaints.”

Thompson has scored in every game, three double strikes and a hat-trick helping to take him to 11 goals and making him the top scorer in the Premier Division. He is also arguably the best signing of the summer, after his move from St George’s.

“He’s very happy with his football and looking to get better and better,” Talbot added. “I’m grateful for the entire team and if you ask him, he’s grateful to be here, too.”

Coach Farid El Karfa was off the island this week, with assistant coaches, brothers Khomeini and Thaaqib Talbot, taking over the team with Wendell Furbert in his absence. “We’re in good hands,” the manager said. “We have a team of coaches, so if one person is not there, then I think we’re fine.”

Not bad for a club who were initially rejected when they tried to enter a senior team in the league. “We want football in Bermuda to get better and want people to come out and support us,” said Talbot, whose team train in Harris Bay and play at Garrison Field.

“Those two parishes are neighbours and we feel comfortable in either one,” he said. “Hopefully, Government sees what we’re doing and supports us.

“We’re doing great things for the benefit of the community. We have a saying, ‘never will you truly believe until you want for your brother what you want for yourself’.”

X-Roads will also be without goalkeeper Dashun Cooper, who is in Florida with the Bermuda team at the Concacaf Under-20 Championship as goalkeeper coach.

Town have lost their past two games to North Village and Boulevard, who picked up their first win to move off the bottom of the tables. This match will be the first of three consecutive home matches for X-Roads. They finish the first half of the schedule with further matches against Paget and Robin Hood.

Paget are another team moving up the table, Dion Stovell’s recent goals helping them to go unbeaten in their past four games since he played his first match of the season in the 4-1 win over Boulevard on September 30. He scored twice that day and netted a hat-trick in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Somerset Trojans, which lifted them to fifth place.

Tomorrow they play BAA, the other promoted team, at Southampton Oval. BAA also picked up their second win last weekend, beating North Village.

Two matches are scheduled for today, with Boulevard, minus player-coach Ian Coke, who is in Scotland sitting the Uefa B Licence course, playing Devonshire Cougars in the afternoon match at St David’s. Robin Hood and North Village meet tonight at 9.00 at Goose Gosling Field for the second time in two days.

PHC and Somerset Trojans also meet again when they play at PHC Field tomorrow. The Trojans pulled off a Dudley Eve Trophy semi-final victory on Thursday night after extra time and penalties, and will be confident against a PHC squad that was minus a few players, with captain Cecoy Robinson also in Scotland taking the coaching course.

Defender Na’eem Griffith has missed the past few games, as he is on a course abroad, while midfielder Tre Ming missed Thursday’s match after picking up a knock last weekend against Robin Hood.

Southampton Rangers, the First Division leaders, will play Flanagan’s Onions at Southampton Oval tomorrow while Somerset Eagles, in second place and also unbeaten, face another top three opponent when they meet Devonshire Colts in the top game at White Hill Field.

In the other matches, Young Men’s Social Club, now fifth, play bottom team Vasco and Hamilton Parish meet St David’s at Wellington Oval. Tomorrow’s lone First Division match has Ireland Rangers hosting Wolves at Malabar Field.