The bulk of the Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team assembled in London today in preparation for international friendlies against Romania and Estonia on June 4 and 7 respectively. But national co-head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz will be without at least seven foreign-based players for the European assignment.
Seon Power (Chainat FC—Thailand), Robert Primus (FC Aktobe—Kazakhastan), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps—Canada), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union—US) and Hughtun Hector (Song Long Nghe—Vietnam) have all withdrawn for various reasons.
Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium) and Sheldon Bateau (Mechelen—Belgium) also skipped the assignments to rest, Carlos Edwards (Ipswich Town—England) is injured and Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England) and Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia) were overlooked.
It is a lot of missing talent for a tiny nation.
Mitchell damaged his ankle in a Major League Soccer (MLS) outing and is out for two weeks while Power and Hector are also believed to have be injured. However, Primus’ situation is less clear as the 22-year-old defender, who was a replacement for Bateau, is “going for a medical appointment in Russia”, according to TTFF press officer Shaun Fuentes. No reason was given for Daniel’s absence.
Daniel was recalled by the “Soca Warriors” in March 2013 for games away to Belize and Peru after he ignored invitations to play in the Caribbean Cup semi-final and final rounds last year. He did not complete the March tour either as he played against Belize but pulled out of the trip to Peru.
Southern Football Association midfielder Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic Centre) was another controversial pick for Trinidad and Tobago’s tour to Central and South America in March and was not invited to Europe. Shabazz had defended his choice of the lower league player in a Wired868 column.
Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling, who was the top domestic scorer for the 2012/13 season, and A’ League defender Julius James (Carolina Railhawks) were called up as replacements for the missing players.
The raft of alterations has left the appearance of a lopsided squad.
The Warriors used a 4-5-1 formation for most of the past year but there are four specialist strikers in the 18-man team and just as many defenders. Presumably, DIRECTV W Connection’s leading scorer Joevin Jones will be asked to play at left back, as is often the case when he joins the national team.
The rest of the touring party comprises of two goalkeepers, five central midfielders and two wingers.
Shabazz told the TTFF media that he is happy for the chance to bond with the squad despite the many adjustments.
“It’s a good little period for us because we have the chance to spend some time with both the players from home and outside of Trinidad and Tobago in preparation for these two games,” said Shabazz. “It’s unfortunate that we will have to do without a few of the players who were originally in the squad but these things happen. At the same time we have a squad of players with us at the moment that possess a lot of experience and ability.
“These matches against Romania and Estonia will also give us the opportunity to measure ourselves at this stage of the preparation and see where we have to go in order to be ready for the Gold Cup next month.”
Romania is 34th in FIFA’s international rankings while Estonia comes in at 92nd. Trinidad and Tobago has slipped to 82nd in the world after ending 2012 in 67th place following a second place finish at the 2012 Caribbean Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago’s lowest ever placement in the FIFA rankings came in 2010 when the Warriors slid to 106th.
The Warriors’ upcoming assignments in Romania and Estonia should mark the international debut for Middlesbrough defender and former Arsenal player Justin Hoyte, who met his teammates for the first time today.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to show my talent on an international level and hopefully be part of the Trinidad and Tobago team which will do the nation proud in the Gold Cup,” said Hoyte. “I’m really happy and feel honoured to firstly be selected by the coaches and then to be joining up with the team… I’m happy that I can finally be part of the team and I’m definitely looking forward to the two upcoming matches over the next week.”
Other interesting inclusions are central defender Radanfah Abu Bakr (FC Vostok—Kazakhastan) and England League One midfielder Andre Boucaud (Notts County) who have not represented their country for three and nine years respectively.
St Ann’s Rangers goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams is also seeking his first national cap since captaining the squad at the 2012 Caribbean Cup. Williams lost his place after a fall-out with his previous employer, W Connection, meant that he spent three months without playing a competitive match.
The Warriors will train in London tomorrow morning at the Haven Centre ground, which was arranged by England-based agent Faizal Khan who worked with Shabazz during his stint with the Guyana national team.
The Trinidad and Tobago squad for the international friendlies against Romania and Estonia comprises:
Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (St Ann’s Rangers), Marvin Phillip (Central FC);
Defenders: Justin Hoyte (Middlesbrough—England), Julius James (Carolina Railhawks—US), Radanfah Abu Bakr (FC Vostok—Kazakhastan), Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones (both W Connection),
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Notts County—England), Chris Birchall (Port Vale—England), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—US), Ataullah Guerra (RoPS—Finland), Densill Theobald (Caledonia AIA),
Wingers: Darryl Roberts (Samsunspor—Turkey), Kevon Carter (Defence Force),
Forwards: Shahdon Winchester (FF Jaro—Finland), Jamal Gay (Caledonia AIA), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force), Cornell Glen (North East Stars).
Technical Staff: Jamaal Shabaaz and Hutson Charles (co-head coaches), Derek King (assistant coach), Jefferson George (goalkeeper coach), Dave Isaac (physio/trainer), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Shaun Fuentes (media officer), William Wallace (manager), Peter Rampersad (assistant manager).