The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) appears set to announce another new face on its technical staff on the eve of the July 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Wired868 understands that former Canada national football team coach Stephen Hart has accepted a two-year offer from TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee and should be in charge of the “Soca Warriors” in time for next month’s tournament.
Former 2006 World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker is still on the way but his position would be as a director of football. Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to contact Tim Kee and TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips for information on the new structure and responsibilities of the technical staff.
But David Muhammad, another new recruit, confirmed that Hart will join the staff.
“My understanding is that a press release should be sent out to give the details,” Muhammad told Wired868. “But, basically, Stephen Hart is head coach and Leo Beenhakker is director of football… Stephen Hart will run the bench and will have the final say on all team matters.
“Beenhakker will be there to lend his knowledge of the game and to offer guidance and advice.”
So, based on present information, Anton Corneal continues as technical director while Beenhakker comes in as director of football with Hart as head coach. New St Ann’s Rangers head coach Gilbert Bateau also joins the squad as a trainer. And, within the support staff, Muhammad is now head of the delegation for the Gold Cup with William Wallace and Peter Rampersad continuing as manager and assistant manager respectively.
And what is the fate of the coaches who booked Trinidad and Tobago’s place at the 2013 Gold Cup?
Co-head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles was formally invited to be interviewed by Beenhakker for an assistant coaching position while his fellow head coach Jamaal Shabazz and assistant Derek King were privately asked to do the same.
Shabazz initially agreed to work under Beenhakker, a former Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach, but refused the offer of an apprenticeship under the less celebrated, Trinidad-born Hart.
“What is the basis of our demotion?” asked Shabazz. “The fact that we have not scored a goal in six matches against opposition that coaches of higher pedigree have struggled to beat? I am getting a whiff of a North American solution to all of Trinidad and Tobago’s football programmes.
“Down the road, I’m predicting that North Americans will be coming in to deal with our women and youth teams too.”
Phillips, who was appointed as general secretary last month, resides in the United States and travels here intermittently to oversee important TTFA matters in person. It is uncertain whether he intends to relocate to Trinidad or if he hopes to conduct the business of local football through phone calls and Skype.
Hart, a former Texaco midfielder, left Trinidad for Canada in the 1980s where he attended St Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He lived there ever since and worked for the Canada football association in various capacities between 2004 and 2012, during which time he lost both competitive meetings with Trinidad and Tobago.
Hart led Canada’s under-17 team twice and its under-20 squad once but failed to qualify for a World Youth Championship. In 2007, the Trinidad and Tobago under-17 team, coached by Anton Corneal and assisted by Charles, defeated Hart’s youth team 2-1 en route to the 2007 World Youth Cup. And, two years later, Zoran Vranes was head coach with Charles as assistant as the young Warriors defeat Hart’s Canada team 1-0 to book a place at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup.
In the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, the Soca Warriors got to the final CONCACAF qualifying round while Hart’s Canadian team was eliminated in the semi-final phase. And, in 2014, Hart again failed to get to the final six CONCACAF teams as Canada again fell in the semi-final stage as did Shabazz with minnows, Guyana.
Hart’s record is better in the Gold Cup, though. Canada was a losing semi-finalist in 2007 and again got out of its group in 2009 although he failed to advance to the knockout stage in the 2011 competition.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Bertille St Clair remains the only coach to take the Warriors into the knockout stage of the Gold Cup when, in the 2000 tournament, he steered the side all the way to semi-finals. Ironically, St Clair’s team was defeated 1-0 by Canada although Hart was not coach at the time.
Shabazz suggested that Central FC coach Terry Fenwick and DIRECTV W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, an Englishman and St Lucian respectively, could add more to local football than the Canada-based Trinidadian.
“If Hutson and myself were being demoted on the basis of competence,” said Shabazz, “I would have put forward Terry Fenwick or Stuart Charles as our immediate successors before I looked anywhere else. After that I would have put forward (Wigan assistant coach) Dennis Lawrence once he gets a little more experience…
“At least Fenwick knows the players but does Stephen Hart know the players? If the team does badly, he can now say that he just come and he didn’t have a lot of time with the team. If the team does well he is a hero.”
Shabazz said he now just wants to be paid for his work over the last six months, which, with bonuses, match fees and per diems, is estimated at just over $200,000 (US$31,000).
Tim Kee told Wired868 that the Government owes the coaches and not the football body. He said he would do his best to ensure the coaches are paid but he will not try to raise funds from the private sector to cover debts.
Shabazz accepts that the Ministry of Sport allegedly made a verbal commitment to pay their salaries but countered that it was the football body which employed him. He insisted that the new TTFA leadership would lose credibility if it does not ensure its outgoing staff is paid before unveiling highly compensated replacements.
Ironically, Charles, Shabazz and Charles worked without written contracts as the TTFA said there was no money to offer them long term deals. But, after taking the Warriors to its first Gold Cup in six years, Hart will take the team to the tournament with the security of a two-year contract.
“We kept the only bargaining chip available for football alive, which is the national football team,” said Shabazz. “We rolled up our sleeves and went in the filth and in the mud and worked like slaves. And now we cannot even get the wages of indentured labourers? That is not right.
“I spoke with Sheldon Phillips and he seems very amenable and he has shown an inclination for us to work together to ask the Ministry to cover same. But I will not accept someone coming here and making enough money to feed their dog steak while our families have nothing to eat, especially after I left a contract in Guyana and two month’s salary to come and work hard for my country.”