Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Gilbert ready to take ‘Junglists’ into battle

Published:Monday | October 2, 2023 | 12:10 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Arnett Gardens coach Xavier Gilbert
Arnett Gardens coach Xavier Gilbert

New Arnett Gardens coach Xavier Gilbert is under no illusions as he takes the ‘Junglists’ into the 2023-24 Jamaica Premier League (JPL) season.

Gilbert, who was assistant to Lorne Donaldson as the Reggae Girlz qualified for a second successive Women’s World Cup, was named as Paul Davis’ replacement in June after the club and Davis failed to reach an agreement to extend his tenure.

Since his arrival, Gilbert said he has felt the warmth of the fans and the support of the club’s management, but he knows all too well that things can change very quickly if results are not favourable.

“So far, so good. They have received me well and the reception for what we have been doing has been good. I have been getting good support from management and the players, so that in itself is a plus.

“But it is early days and the competition hasn’t started as yet. The fans have been good but we know that, once the games have started and results aren’t coming, they will show their displeasure,” he said.

“It is important that we try to get off to a good start. I think that will set the tone, and that is what we are working on, to see if we can get off to a good start so we can be a little more relaxed and work on what we need to work on.”

Gilbert’s critics argue that his exploits are in female football and that he has no experience coaching the other sex, which is an entirely different experience.

However, the many-time national female youth coach points to his experiences with Excelsior High in the Manning Cup and Dinthill Technical in the daCosta Cup.

Although results remain the primary objective, Gilbert said he intends to keep Arnett’s philosophy of attacking and entertaining football.

“Our first objective is to make it in the top six and then try to reach the top four. As long as we stay healthy, we will be competitive. We have lost some key players but we have got a few replacements. So players will just have to step up and, for some of the younger ones, this will be their opportunity,” he said.

“Of course, my style is to play attractive and entertaining football. Nevertheless, you still have to be smart, because the game is all about results.

“We have been working to curb some bad habits so that we are able to get the results when we go out on the pitch. So, tactically, the team needs to get better, and that is what we have been working on,” Gilbert said.