The Trinidad and Tobago national football team restarted its mission to qualify for its first CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament since 2007 with a training session on Sunday and coach Hutson Charles’ 29-man provisional squad meets again today from 9 am at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.
But selecting a squad is the arguably the easy bit. National team technical director Anton Corneal told Wired868.com that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) remains in a perilous financial condition and doubt is likely to persist until sponsors can be found.
TTFF marketing manager Anthony Harford insisted, in previous interviews, that the Sport Ministry reneged on financial promises while Ashwin Creed, the Sport Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, made it clear that the Government felt it had no obligation to help.
Corneal hopes that funding can be sourced from the private sector and well-wishers. The “Soca Warriors” have three Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifying games in St Kitts and Nevis next month against French Guyana, Anguilla and the host nation on October 10, 12 and 14 respectively.
“(Today) I will sit with the General Secretary (Richard Groden) and Mr Harford to do a final budget and discuss where we might be able to get the funds,” said Corneal. “We have to go to (the qualifiers) so we have to hope the Federation can raise the funds somehow.”
Charles, a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force officer, and his assistant coach Derek King have agreed to accept whatever compensation the TTFF can afford to prepare the team. Angus Eve, who was asked to split national assistant coach duties with his post as North East Stars head coach, has not replied conclusively to the invitation as yet.
Eve and King are still owed salaries for their work with the national under-23 team, which ended in March, while Charles is one of a bevy of TTFF coaches who have made do with a stipend this year.
The remainder of the senior team staff includes goalkeeper coach Jefferson George, who is employed as the T&TEC head coach and as a welder at the company, Dr Terrence Babwah and physiotherapist Dave Isaac.
“The entire set up is interim at the moment,” said Corneal. “You cannot make long-term plans if you don’t know where the money is coming from.”
On the playing side, Charles had the opportunity to select overseas-based players as the upcoming games are within the FIFA-approved international calendar. He selected nine overseas players in total and three from Europe including Racing Genk midfielder Khaleem Hyland.
“It’s a squad that we thought carefully about and weighed some of the options available to us at the moment,” Charles told the TTFF Media. “We have set on our sights on qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup but we have to win our first group in St Kitts in order to advance in the tournament which means we cannot afford to take this first stage for granted. The aim is to win all three matches in this group and set the pace for the rest of the competition.
“I think the players are hungry for international football and they want to produce the goods to ensure we get ourselves back up there with the front pack. It’s a good period for us in terms of players coming through the ranks who are not just talented but also have a fair amount of experience under their belt.”
Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, Trinidad and Tobago’s sole England Premier League player and the captain of the short-lived 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, was not selected though. Speedy Slovakia-based winger Lester Peltier, Seattle Sounders attacker Cordell Cato and Thailand-based utility player Kendall Jagdeosingh did not make the cut either.
From the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League, the North East Stars duo of 2006 World Cup striker Cornell Glen and midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford, Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Conrod Smith and full back Kareem Joseph and the DirecTV W Connection pair of midfielder Jomal Williams and winger Rennie Britto may feel especially disappointed to miss out.
However, Caledonia playmaker and 2006 World Cup player Densill Theobald is set to rejoin the squad after a year’s hiatus while talented 21-year-old Kazakhastan-based central defender Robert Primus should win his first senior cap in three years.
Another intriguing selection is versatile 21-year-old Caledonia defender Aubrey David who played in two youth World Cups for Trinidad and Tobago, the land of his birth, in 2007 and 2009 but switched allegiance to Guyana—the birthplace of his parents—last May.
David was an unused substitute when the Guyana senior team fell 3-1 to Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in World Cup qualifying action this June but is yet to play competitively for the “Golden Jaguars.”
Corneal confessed that Trinidad and Tobago hopes to lure back the player who can operate anywhere in the defence and at central midfield. Wired868 was unable to reach Charles for comment on his team selection.
T&T 29-man squad
GK: Jan Michael Williams (DirecTV W Connection), Cleon John (North East Stars), Marvin Phillip (Central FC);
Def: Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps—Canada), Robert Primus (FC Aktobe—Kazakhstan), Julius James (Columbus Crew—USA), Rodell Elcock (Defence Force), Kareem Moses, Seon Power, Kevon Villaroel (all North East Stars), Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones (both DirecTV W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Aubrey David (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);
Mid: Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Densill Theobald (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA), Clyde Leon (DirecTV W Connection), Kevon Neaves (T&TEC), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union—USA), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—USA), Hughtun Hector (Song Lam Nghe—Vietnam), Keron Boucher (St Clair Coaching School), Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Duane Muckette (1st Fc Santa Rosa);
For: Darryl Roberts (Samsunspor—Turkey), Willis Plaza (Sai Gon FC—Vietnam), Richard Roy, Devorn Jorsling (both Defence Force), Jamal Gay (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA).
Editor’s Note: Versatile North East Stars defender Elton John was also selected for the national team but pulled out due to injury.