It was not the type of performance Dandy Town wanted to produce in front of the season’s biggest crowd on New Year’s Day, but the Hornets did have an achievement to be proud of, as all four cup final day coaches have ties with the club.
Jomar Wilkinson, who won a second Shield title with Southampton Rangers, was a former Town player and coach, while Corey Hill, the Hamilton Parish coach, is also a former player for the Hornets. Same in the Friendship Trophy final where the two coaches, Scott Morton and Devarr Boyles, are former Town team-mates.
“I played a little bit with most of those guys, but when Corey was there, I was 16 or 17 and training with them and had a game or two,” recalls Cal Blankendal, who came on board this season as assistant coach along with Aaron Denkins when Boyles returned as coach from North Village.
“Yeah, it was a proud moment, people always make recognition of teams with former players and coaches and when you look at the teams in the finals, most of them try to play attractive, possession-based football that comes from the Dandy Town philosophy.
“No, it doesn’t make up for the disappointment [of the 5-2 loss] but with our coach, Devarr Boyles, and the former players who are coaching somewhere else, including two who are former Town coaches, it just shows that we have a footprint in the current DNA of Bermuda in football. The big picture is we are establishing ourselves after being one of the younger clubs to be promoted into the First Division which is now the Premier Division, only having been formed around 1973.”
Town, who can boast having Nahki Wells as a product of their programme, have won 29 major trophies since coming into the league, eight Premier Division titles, six FA Cup wins, four Friendship, six Martonmere and five Dudley Eve titles.
“The principle is to play football, try to please the crowd and not be afraid to take risks which is a Dandy Town trait,” Blankendal explained. “All the coaches who were there learnt it from their time in the ‘youth explosion era’.”
Tuesday’s loss to PHC ended a four-game unbeaten run which started after a 6-0 hammering at the hands of X-Roads back in early November. “On the day you have to say that PHC deserved the win over the 90 minutes, so we definitely can’t take anything from them,” Blankendal said.
“If you look at our season, we started with two wins, had a string of losses and then put together a run in the last six games of four wins, a draw and a loss, which was a vast improvement over the middle part of the first half of the season.
“We’re looking to put another run together, starting on Sunday against BAA and it only matters what we do on the pitch. We have to bounce back mentally and physically. The first priority is to finish as high as we can in the league, which gives you a good foundation and keeps you in the running for the rest of the season.
“In cup games we have to make sure we win to put ourselves in position to get back into another final where there is a 50-50 chance.”
Blankendal says he has enjoyed his stint as assistant coach. “It’s been a good learning experience for me, Devarr is very open-minded and is a teacher by trade,” he said.
“He knows how to get his information across and is very inclusive. He allows us to express ourselves and be a part of the sessions.
“Denkins started with Dandy Stars when his daughter was a player and he came on to assist about ten years ago. He was a parent who became a coach and has gone on to higher heights and is now the national team women’s coach.
“This is a great story for anyone who wants to get into coaching. You learn the game by getting passionate about it and going to courses and making yourself available. Denkins is actually our most established international coach at the club at this moment, so we have a good team. He’s very influential in the background in what we do.”
Blankendal also praised trainer Gladwin Richardson for the work he does with the team. “He’s a long serving physio at the club and really got the players fit from the beginning of the season,” he said. “Antoine Tuzo took over the goalkeeper coaching reins after the first four or five games and goalkeeper Jaiden Manders has come on leaps and bounds.
“The scoreline wouldn’t reflect that but if he didn’t make the saves he did it would have been a larger win for PHC. The players admit they didn’t perform well for the crowd, but they were surprised as such a large crowd that came out to support all four teams.
“We want to thank Somerset Cricket Club and the Bermuda Police Service and everyone else who made it a fantastic day. To one of our own, Scott Morton, congratulations on another trophy and we’ll be looking to get back at him as soon as possible.”