Island Games: Powell not feeling pre-tournament pressure

Island Games: Powell not feeling pre-tournament pressure
Elliot Powell is in interim charge of Jersey's men for this summer's event - photo credit Andy Dovey

It's not exactly Baddiel and Skinner years of hurt stuff, but it's been a while. Jersey's men haven't celebrated Island Games football gold since 2009. They haven't made it out of their group since 2011.

Nearly a decade-and-a-half on from that last triumph in Aland, interim boss Elliot Powell is focussed on ending the wait. The St Peter FC manager steps up to the plate at short notice, following the recent sudden end of Martin Cassidy's seven-year stint in charge.

Powell admits he didn't expect to be in this position just a handful of years on from taking charge of local Championship side St John, but insists being given the Jersey role with only a few months to prepare means he's not feeling the pressure or weight of expectation ahead of Guernsey 2023.

Jersey crashed out in the group stage at their home Games in 2015, and also narrowly failed to make the latter stages of Gotland 2017 and the 2019 spin-off event in Ynys Mon. Always close to topping their section, but not quite there.

The first task then... get through the group. Menorca, newcomers Gozo and long-distance travellers St Helena stand in the way.

"I obviously didn't expect to find myself here, and I certainly didn't expect to find myself here four years ago when I was managing St John," said Powell.

"I was 11 the last time the Games was won by Jersey's men, so I don't actually overly remember it. I think we've struggled recently [in Island Games football], so if anything there's a 'free hit' element to it for me, getting chucked the Games and the role at the last minute. I don't feel any particular pressure or expectation, bar what I set myself and the team."

Jersey lift the Muratti Vase in 2023
Jersey will return to Guernsey where they won the Muratti in May - photo credit Andy Dovey

The Games opening ceremony in Guernsey is exactly one month from today, on 8 July. Powell has largely stuck with the squad that lifted the Muratti Vase there last month, but has put his own stamp on the group with the inclusion of Premiership players Kieran Stephens (Grouville) and Paul McCafferty (St Peter).

"I got the job three days before the final squad submission had to go in, although a provisional squad had been already submitted," Powell told

"The two that we’ve brought in, in Paul and Kieran, thoroughly deserve it. I think Paul's been outstanding for St Peter this year, where I’ve seen a lot of him. He’s a really, really versatile, technically gifted lad. From a team fit point of view as well, he's a really good lad around the changing room and has got a wise head.

"Kieran gives us a completely different option. He’s got a great engine on him, he does the right things at the right time, and he listens as well, which is a skill that’s completely underrated over here. You've got that long throw in his armoury which could be that one percenter in the games if it’s tight against a team that’s sitting in."

Jersey stalwart Luke Watson also gets the nod, bringing bucket loads of big game experience to an 18-man squad which also includes long-serving centre back duo Luke Campbell and James Queree.

Jersey's men beat hosts Aland 2-1 in the final of the 2009 Island Games

Like their tournament opposition, it's three matches on three consecutive days to kick off the week. The opener against Gozo at Corbet Field will be going into the unknown. The island, just off Malta, is competing in its first Games. A quick Google shows they haven't played much representative football of late - there isn't likely to be a lot of match footage for Powell and his coaching team to pore over. Google might have to do.

On the Monday the venue is Northfield to face a Menorca team that are likely to pose the stiffest Group D test. The sides drew 3-3 when they last met, at Gotland 2017, as Jersey staged a remarkable comeback with a Karl Hinds hat-trick in the last 20 minutes. Hinds is in the squad again six years on, after a season in which he netted a half-century of goals for Grouville.

There's then less than 24 hours to recover from the Menorca game before the last group match against St Helena, a side which shipped nine goals against Guernsey in 2019.

Powell said: "It’s very much a first target of getting out of the group. Gozo are a complete unknown quantity on the Sunday, I’m not overly sure what they’re going to bring to the table.

"Menorca is obviously the big one on the Monday and I think that’s going to be a really, really tough game. Ideally our fate will be in our own hands going into that last game against St Helena. Get out of the group, set up that inter-insular tie for the semi-final, and see how we see how we go from there."

Hosts Guernsey will likely qualify from Group A, particularly with home advantage. Group B looks the toughest of the four, with 2019 Inter-Island Games winners Ynys Mon joined by Isle of Man (bronze in 2019), Shetland Islands (4th in 2019) and Falklands. 2017 finalists Greenland will have hopes of topping Group C.

Powell added: "For me, as long as we can go over there and do the island proud both on and off the pitch, that's a massive thing for me. That we're a team that the Association can be proud of on the pitch, but also off the pitch in how we conduct ourselves, how we represent Team Jersey, and how we support fellow islanders in their competition.

"The scenes at the end of the Muratti, with both teams [men and women] on the pitch, are something that I'd love to be able to recreate in Guernsey again, but with Island Games gold around our necks."

Jersey group fixtures (expand)

Sunday 9 July - Gozo - Corbet Field - 14.30

Monday 10 July - Menorca - Northfield - 14.30

Tuesday 11 July - St Helena - Northfield - 10:30

Jersey squad: Euan Van der Vliet (Bulls), Pierce Roche (St Peter), Paul McCafferty (St Peter), Harry Curtis (Lower Breck), Jonny Le Quesne (Bulls), Jay Giles (Bulls), James Queree (Bulls), Luke Campbell (Bulls), Joe Kilshaw (Bulls), Adam Trotter (Bulls), Luke Watson (Bulls), Kieran Stephens (Grouville), Toby Ritzema (Shepshed Dynamo), Miguel Carvalho (Bulls), Francis Lekimamati (Bulls), Lorne Bickley (Bulls), James Carr (South Liverpool), Karl Hinds (Grouville).