Gilbert targeting continued success with Arnett Gardens as CFU Caribbean Shield awaits

By May 23, 2024
GILBERT...We didn't win the title or make it to the finals, but finishing third and getting a spot in the CFU Caribbean Shield is definitely an achievement. GILBERT...We didn't win the title or make it to the finals, but finishing third and getting a spot in the CFU Caribbean Shield is definitely an achievement.

Despite his extensive experience and success coaching female teams, Xavier Gilbert’s introduction to the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) was expected to be tough, especially guiding a team such as Arnett Gardens.

Well aware of how most felt about his chances in the nation’s top-flight, Gilbert was determined to overcome the challenges of gaining experience at that level, and also prove his doubters wrong, and he did just that, for the most part. Though he didn’t lead Arnett Gardens to a long-awaited title –dating to the 2016-17 triumph –Gilbert, who is an assistant to senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Hubert Busby, believes a third-place finish was an achievement of sorts.

This, as it not only follows a similar outcome from last season but, more importantly, earned them a spot in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Shield where they will challenge for one of two spots to the more prestigious Concacaf Caribbean Cup.

The “Junglists”, who placed fifth in the preliminary round on 49 points, hammered Waterhouse 5-1 in the third-place encounter to finish behind Champions Cavalier FC and beaten finalist Mount Pleasant FA.

“Pressure is natural, and it helps us focus on meeting our objectives. So, I saw that pressure as a positive motivator for us to attain our goals. We didn't win the title or make it to the finals, but finishing third and getting a spot in the CFU Caribbean Shield is definitely an achievement.

“The season was very competitive, especially between the teams in the top six, and then there were those teams that improved throughout the season. We prepared for all our opponents and gave our best each time we touched the field and it is just unfortunate that we couldn’t go all the way,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“I want to applaud the players, my support staff, management, and everybody, who played a part in ensuring the players were healthy and fed, the community and the fans. I want to thank them for their support and commitment, and as we look forward to the CFU Caribbean Shield, we just want to do well to ensure that we make it to the CONCACAF level to join Mount Pleasant and Cavalier,” he added.

Gilbert knew his decision to take the reins at Arnett Gardens would prove a sound one, as he made astute changes to their tactical approach along the way that contributed to his fairly successful debut season.  Still, the tactician credited the players led by veteran Fabian Reid and rising star Keheim Dixon for delivering at very high standards, so that he could realise his ambitions of keeping the team competitive.

“Every team offers a different level of competition and you have to adjust accordingly based on what is happening on the day. Sometimes you plan to play a particular way, but based on how things are unfolding on the day, you just have to change and make that adjustment and adapt as quickly as possible. That is among some of the things that I learned through the season,” Gilbert revealed.

 “Also working with the players was a major high point, the level of respect and professionalism that they showed throughout the campaign was great and that was a rewarding experience. Technically we played well, but the results didn’t always match our performances. So going forward we’re trying to learn from the mistakes of the season and hope to perform better in the CFU Shield and hopefully, the Concacaf Club Championships,” he shared.

Every coach has a unique philosophy, and for Gilbert dedication to hard work and giving people what they deserve are crucial factors for success. In fact, he was quick to point out that belief in teamwork and harnessing individual potential for the collective good are just as important and that is the inspiration they are taking into the Caribbean Shield set to unfold from July 25 to August 4, at a venue to be announced.

“Our expectation is to build on what we have achieved so far and finish in the top two and advance. We know it is not going to be easy, but the players are excited, they are looking forward to it and it is just for them to go out and make themselves, the club and the community proud. It is also a good way for them to market themselves, so I know they want to make the most of it,” Gilbert ended.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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