St. Kitts & Nevis Javier Sutton (pictured) in Caribbean under-20 qualifying action against host Curacao on October 25, 2016, in Willemstad. (Photo: David Heykoop)
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts & Nevis – On the strength of it being the side with the best third-place record in a recently completed Caribbean qualifying tournament, St. Kitts & Nevis secured a spot in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
It will be the Sugar Boyz’s second-ever appearance in the competition and first since 2007.
Technical director Lenny Lake credits careful planning and a commitment to development for the recent success.
“All the U20 players, 10 years ago in 2006, developed through our grassroots program and played on our national youth teams over the last few years,” he told CONCACAF.com. “All our players play at home and they have built an excellent team cohesiveness.
“With that platform it is no surprise to see how well they have executed the necessary results. The players were disappointed not getting to the CFU semifinals. However, we were quite appreciative and grateful to have still earn a spot for the CONCACAF U20 Championship in 2017.”
Lake was quick to point out a turning point in the team’s favour during the Caribbean qualifiers – a first-round win over regional power Jamaica.
“In the Dominican Republic, we started with a loss to the host but beating Jamaica spurred on the team and it certainly did motivate them,” expressed Lake. “Since then I have seen the team excel.”
After the momentous 2-0 win over Jamaica on a pair of Tahir Hanley goals, St. Kitts & Nevis topped Dominica, 4-2, to win Group 4 and advance to the final round last month.
In the finals contested in Curacao, St. Kitts posted a 1W-1D-1L to finish third in Group A to beat out Group B’s Cuba, which went 0-2-1.
At the end of the day, the goal of reaching the CONCACAF was as a result of the combined efforts of numerous stakeholders.
“The St. Kitts & Nevis Football Association, over the past few years, through its strategic planning meetings developed its objectives to improve the performance of our senior team and structure an appropriate development pathway for our youth players,” the former national team manager finished. “With limited resources, defining the roles of all key persons was critical. Also, performing as a team to achieve our objectives was a top priority. I would say it was a mix of everyone working hard together.”
A formula, no doubt, that produced the anticipated reward.