COUVA, Trinidad & Tobago - After falling 2-0 to Portmore United in its 2018 Caribbean Club Championship opener on February 7, Central FC responded in a way expected of a two-time champion - winning its next two first-round matches to finish atop Group B and advance to the finals.
Although he wants to keep the achievement in perspective, head coach Stern John realizes progression was vital on many levels.
"This is a massive win for the club," the veteran of Trinidad & Tobago's 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign said. "When we first started preparation for this tournament, which was about a month ago, my main concern was putting a team together to compete.
"We were in our off season and my main concern was getting the boys up to a decent fitness level so that we could at least come and compete. The players worked their socks off to get to this point and they deserved a lot of credit for the results."
The trio of games were played in Santiago, Dominican Republic, with the Sharks needing to beat host Atlantico FC in Sunday's finale. Yoan Melo's own-goal in the 60th-minute of that encounter was enough to give the Trinidad & Tobago power maximum points from a 1-0 scoreline.
"It's been a while that we've seen a Trinidad & Tobago team play away from home with that kind of desire to fight and come away with results when we needed it in this type of situation," expressed the 41-year-old, who was handed the Central FC managerial reins last September. "The home team was pretty decent and made it difficult for us up until the final whistle.
"For me, as head coach at this level for the first time, I was buzzing with the performance and to see the players work together and play for each other. Credit also has to go to some of the senior players such as Carlyle Mitchell, who was maybe the MVP of the tournament, and Densill Theobald, as well as the youngster Rhondell Gibson who stepped in and did a job for us. The whole atmosphere around the club was really good and that's a good sign for us."
And, perhaps, an unnerving one for future opponents.