The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has seen better weeks than this one, which included the tragic slaying of Sergeant Hayden Manwaring and persistent speculation about the return of a “Flying Squad” that supposedly operates without the knowledge of Acting Police Commissioner Stephan Williams.
The importance of what happens on the football field naturally pales in comparison to either episode. Yet, it is a reminder that respect is not given but earned in this sceptical climate.
And, in a recurring theme for the Police football club, a valiant effort failed to get the desired result as the “Lawmen” were whipped 5-2 last night by defending Digicel Pro League champions, DIRECTV W Connection, at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
“I thought it was a good game of football,” said Police coach Richard Hood. “We had our moments… but we have been defended naively and we got punished.
“I am seeing improvements in our football. We are just not getting the results.”
Hood, a sergeant in the Guard and Emergency Branch, is a throwback from Police’s glory era in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he operated as a versatile defender.
He took over as head coach at the start of the 2012/13 Pro League season and has moulded a competitive squad. But, like the T&TEC FC’s technical staff, Hood has struggled to convince his superiors of sport’s importance within their corporate structure.
“We are suffering from a lack of consistency in performance which is from lack of consistency in training,” said Hood. “We have a lot of civilians in the squad and the process of bringing them into the force is slow. We have quality players but we are not able to get them together in training often enough.”
Only two of Police’s starting XI on Friday night, midfielder and captain Todd Ryan and goalkeeper Jamaal Francois, are servicemen. It means that the other nine players are not receiving any compensation whatsoever for their work.
As a result, Police’s four weekly training sessions tend to each be attended by different players.
“All we are giving them is hope to come into the service,” said Hood. “I can’t deny a man a chance to get a hustle if we cannot pay him…
“The players were supposed to be brought in as SRPs (Special Reserve Police) since January but nothing happened. Then (the deadline) went to the first week after Carnival but that came and went.
“So we are still waiting to see…”
The seemingly uncharitable stance of the Police Service’s decision makers might have affected one Connection player directly.
Last season, former “Strike Squad” defender and ex-policeman Kelvin Jones was head coach before the Service decided to rely only on the expertise of active members and released him.
And, last night, his son, Joevin Jones, made the men in blue pay with a brilliant hattrick as Connection extended its gap over North East Stars to five points and pulled within eight points of leaders Defence Force.
“I think (Jones) has been playing excellently,” said Hood. “He is their most dangerous player at the moment. I think we can have done a better job on him defensively… But he is an outstanding midfielder.”
It would be unfair on Jones to attribute his form solely to the sight of the Police team, though.
Built up as one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most promising youngsters, the 21-year-old utility player blew hot and cold for much of the season and was mediocre for the “Soca Warriors” at the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals.
Connection owner David John Williams deduced that Jones needed a break from a hectic two-year span in which he represented the under-23 and senior team as well as the “Savonetta Boys” in Pro League, Caribbean Cup and CONCACAF Champions League action.
Jones got a two week vacation in January, which was followed by an eight day stint at United States Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit, Toronto.
Toronto supposedly had concerns about Jones’ slender frame and did not make a serious offer. But, at this rate, it might be the Canadian club that is quickly deemed too small for the young Warrior.
In the first five months of the domestic season, Jones scored just two league goals. Since his return from Toronto, he has scored in all three games and his treble on Friday took his tally for February to five goals.
Jones’ scoring run is just one facet of his game; the other is his intelligent passing and movement and dangerous set pieces. Police was treated to the full range of his abilities on Friday.
The Lawmen were first on the scoresheet in the sixth minute as striker Jameel Perry converted after a right side corner kick from his brother, Kareem Perry.
Connection equalised in the 17th minute as Hashim Arcia placed home from inside the box after Police failed to clear a left side Kemuel Rivers cross. Arcia hit the post, two minutes later, but Andrei Pacheco rammed in the rebound to put the defending champions ahead.
Jones’ first goal came in the 37th minute as he took a Stefano Rijssel cross on his thigh and flicked it over the advancing Police custodian, Francois, before tapping home. He got his second just two minutes later as he hit a Rijssel cross first time though Francois’ legs.
Police was still creating chances and defender Elijah Belgrave, a January recruit from St Ann’s Rangers, offered Hood a glimmer of a hope with a blistering free kick in the 75th minute that flew into the top right hand corner.
But Jones would not be outdone.
His Surinamese accomplice, Rijssel, won a soft free kick from Jevon Morris in the 79th minute at the left hand side of Francois’ penalty box. There was nothing soft about the execution of the set piece, though, as Jones whipped a curling, dipping effort that beat the Police goalie at his near post.
It ended a rough week for the Lawmen. On this occasion, though, Police’s demise offered plenty to celebrate for the football public as it coincided with the re-emergence of the gifted, young Jones.
W Connection (4-2-1-3): 21.Alejandro Figueroa; 3.Akeem Benjamin, 5.Elijah Joseph (vice captain), 19.Joel Russell, 6.Kemuel Rivers; 12.Gerrard Williams, 8.Clyde Leon (captain) (25.Christian Viveros 72); 36.Joevin Jones; 17.Andrei Pacheco, 14.Hashim Arcia (29.Jomal Williams 72), 26.Stefano Rijssel (65.Neil Benjamin 82).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester, 2.Jelani Grosvenor, 37.Akeem Humphrey, 39.Alvin Jones.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Police: 29.Jamaal Francois; 7.Clevon McPhee, 20,Elijah Belgrave, 18.Jevon Morris, 17.Dexter Alleyne, 2.Jasimar Ashers (14.Noel Williams 55), 21.Todd Ryan (captain), 11.Kareem Perry, 19.Christon Thomas (26.Marcus Chandool 71), 9.Keon Quow (35.Kerry Frederick 46), 15.Jameel Perry.
Unused substitutes: 33.Anthony Marshall, 28.Aaron Stewart, 37.Vernell Ramirez, 40.Sharkeel Donatien.
Coach: Richard Hood
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Digicel Pro League
(Fri Feb 22)
Defence Force 1 (Devorn Jorsling 14), T&TEC 1 (Glen Sutton 90) at Couva
W Connection 5 (Hashim Arcia 17, Andrei Pacheco 19, Joevin Jones 37, 39, 75), Police 2 (Jameel Perry 6, Elijah Belgrave 75 FK) at Couva[standings league_id=1 template=extend logo=true]