Sylvans – the new neutral’s favourites. Could they do it?

JUST how good are Sylvans?

Can they win the Priaulx League for the first time in 16 years? Those are two questions I increasingly ask of myself.

An unbeaten run now stretching to 10 and, most probably 11 by this evening, certainly highlights a team in form and of some ability. But just how much more, if anything, do they have in the tank of potential? Are they at their max?

A neutral rival coach offered the thought this week that as good as they are, in terms of the title they would probably come up just short.

Additionally, he said that Sylvans are now everybody’s favourite neutral choice, which is very fair comment.

On closer study, it surely is also fair to suggest that in terms of scoring a team’s spine, they fair very well in comparison to their biggest rivals.

On form, is there a more dominant keeper than Nick Batiste? Perhaps not.

In central defence, is there a better outright centre-half than Jacob Fallaize? Same answer.

In the middle of the park, nobody is twinkling with quite the same sparkle as Seb Smeed and up front Kyle Smith is the match of Fin Whitmore and Dom Heaume and their fine accomplices.

So, in spinal strength, Sylvans currently compete very well and perhaps even exceed Rovers and St Martin’s.

You would also have to say that in terms of overall balance, Sylvans are up there with Rovers.

But, for all that, it doesn’t necessarily make them champions and among the very legitimate question marks surrounding the westerners are some possibly very damaging scenarios.

Will they lose Fallaize and Smeed to the lure of American college life any time soon? Will Smith’s problem groin stand up to a winter’s rigours?

The current world situation suggests that young Fallaize and Smeed won’t need replacing before next August, but Smith’s fitness and relevance over a whole campaign has always been a concern.

Smith is key, although it will have pleased his coach no end that he was missing from the scorers list against Manzur.

The big man is the most skilful and clever of all the island’s leading frontmen and so crucial to de Garis. But he is now playing a full role in the side, chasing down defenders and setting an example to the youngsters around him.

In broader terms, as promising as the current situation is out St Peter’s way, I don’t fall for the notion that this Sylvans team is matching the developmental hallmarks of the early 1990s when Colin Renouf moulded a great team. Yet, clearly, coaches Martyn de Garis and Mike Garnett certainly have something going with the reds at present and it seems they are extracting the very best out of youngsters of top attitude as opposed to top talent of the level of, for instance, John and Paul Nobes, Tony Vance and Steve Brehaut.

Regardless of whether Sylvans win the title or not, their overall position, on and off the pitch, is a triumph in itself.

All is very well again at St Peter’s.

Pre-Christmas games for the top three:

Rovers – Manzur (a), Rangers (h), Sylvans (h),Alderney (h).

St Martin’s – North (a), Sylvans (a), Manzur (h), Rangers (a), Belgraves (h).

Sylvans – Rangers (h), St Martin’s (h), Rovers (a), Manzur (h).

AMID all this league title assessment, we tend to overlook one thing.

But it remains lurking in the background with the menace of a lone wolf prowling the border terrain deciding whether to stay solo or join one of the packs down on the ground.

Ross Allen.

We know he is part of the once-a-week Guernsey FC training sessions and, no doubt, will be part of the big Christmas match between new and original Green Lions announced on Thursday.

Elizabeth College v. Old Elizabethans. (28932713)

But thereafter?

Will he be tempted to join in this intriguing domestic season and, in all probability, swing it?

I’m not so sure he will.

With hopes of a Muratti final surely heading down the Swanee again – come on Jersey, get your act together on the pandemic – there will be no requirement for Allen to play some club football and thus make himself available for selection.

Current Muratti eligibility rules necessitate actually playing locally, the exact wording being:

the need to be ‘playing competitive association football for a domestic club that is affiliated to the Jersey, Guernsey or Alderney Football Associations and plays designated home games within the island for which the player shall represent’.

I still suspect Allen will get involved again come January and I cling to the hope that he will stay with Rangers, where his positive effect will have little or no bearing on the title race.

OFTEN it takes retirement for a career to be truly assessed.

Snooker can look back at the records of Norman Wale and think: ‘Was he that good?

Well, yes he was.

In many years to come table tennis folk might study the history of the domestic game and ask the question of three ladies who have dominated the modern game and, in the case of two of them, just plough on with all the zest of 20-year-olds.

Dawn Morgan (nee Powell) and Kay Chivers (nee Herquin) have won a remarkable 39 Island ladies crowns between them and you can bet that total might push on towards 50 before they are finished.

It is an outstanding effort and, yet, we take them for granted and probably have done so for a long while.

Kay Chivers and Dawn Morgan. (28918036)

Only once, when a young Alice Loveridge burst onto the scene in a once-in-a-century fashion, have these duchesses of the tables been conquered and been put in the shade.

But, their reaction was not of jealousy, not one bit.

They ploughed on, accepted their new placing in the game and waited for any chance that would come along if Alice got slack and went away.

I am sure the Guernsey Table Tennis Association fully appreciate their input to the sport, but in overall sporting terms they should be revered now not only for excellence and self-dedication, but support for the sport they chose to put first.

Alice was the very best, but these two are every bit two sporting legends.

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