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Hart problem! National coach in limbo as TTFA technical committee votes for shake-up

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart and his technical staff appear to be in limbo after the local football association’s technical committee met this afternoon to discuss the state of the Soca Warriors.

The meeting was called on the request of technical director Muhammad Isa. And, according to a well-placed source, the recommendation from the technical committee was: “changes have to be made.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to the final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City on 8 January 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to the final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City on 8 January 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

The source was tight-lipped as to exactly what change would satisfy the committee but, as head of the technical staff, Hart is believed to be in a precarious position.

Trinidad and Tobago have made a poor start to the CONCACAF Hex, as the Warriors lost 2-0 to Costa Rica in Port of Spain on 11 November and 3-1 to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago are second from bottom in the six team standings with only United States below them on goal difference. The Warriors were also eliminated from the Caribbean Cup in the group stage, after losing to Martinique last month.

Incidentally, the TTFA technical committee, which is chaired by TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene, is yet to hold a formal meeting with Hart and appears to have been guided by reports submitted by the coach as well as their own impressions of the team. Hart has yet not handed in his technical report on the Honduras defeat while technical director, Isa, did not travel with the team.

Regardless, the technical committee arrived at a decision without hearing from the coach—in writing or in person.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (centre) tussles with Costa Rica right wing back Christian Gamboa while T&T coach Stephen Hart looks on during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (centre) tussles with Costa Rica right wing back Christian Gamboa while T&T coach Stephen Hart looks on during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

There are still eight games left in the Hex and the top three teams advance automatically to the Russia 2018 World Cup while the fourth placed team enter a play off with Asia’s fifth placed nation. And the Warriors can still qualify for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup via a play off series that starts with matches against Suriname and Haiti on 4 and 8 January respectively in Trinidad.

TTFA president David John-Williams denied rumours that he travelled to South America, almost immediately after the Costa Rica defeat, to sound out potential replacements for Hart or that Jamaica 1998 World Cup coach Rene Simoes— a Brazilian who also had a brief, unsuccessful stint with Trinidad and Tobago in 2001—is the preferred choice.

Instead, John-Williams insisted that he only left the country to attend a CONCACAF course in Miami.

Last weekend, John-Williams called a special general meeting for the football body’s board of directors from 5.30pm on Wednesday 23 November in Port of Spain, although the TTFA’s AGM was already carded for 9am on Saturday 26 November at Naparima College in San Fernando.

According to the TTFA’s constitution, only the board of directors can hire or fire coaches and the 13-member body must now rule on whether to ratify the technical committee’s decision or reject it.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other's company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

The current TTFA board of directors comprises: John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and Allan Warner (vice-presidents), Samuel Saunders (Central FA), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon O’Brien (Women’s League Football), Wayne Cunningham (Eastern FA) and Skeene (TT Pro League).

The TTFA technical committee consists of: Skeene (chairman), Dr Alvin Henderson (vice-chairman), Bertille St Clair (former World Youth Cup coach), Errol Lovell (former national goalkeeper), Jinelle James (ex-national player and current administrator) and Isa (technical director).

However, Henderson—who is abroad—and the Tobago-based St Clair were both absent from this afternoon’s meeting.

W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier is no longer a member of the technical committee since, according to a member, he expressed an interest in applying for a coaching position. Fevrier, a former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach, resigned from the technical committee roughly six months ago, although the public was not informed.

Ironically, just an hour after the technical committee’s decision, United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati announced that their football body has sacked head coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Photo: USA coach and former Germany World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann cheers his team on.
Photo: USA coach and former Germany World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann cheers his team on.

Klinsmann, a former Germany World Cup winner as player and 2006 semifinalist as coach, took over the US team in 2011 and led them to the 2013 Gold Cup title and the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup.

He had another two years to run on his contract and claimed to have the support of outgoing United States president and Nobel prize winner, Barack Obama, who, according to Klinsmann, knows “the dynamics of soccer as a global sport” and “understands that it’s a long qualifying process.”

“It’s important to put this in the right perspective,” Klinsmann told Reuters. “We lost the two opening games [after we] played the two best teams right away. We have eight more games to get the points needed to qualify…

“I’m 1,000 percent sure we’ll qualify.”

In Trinidad, Hart was not nearly as unpopular as Klinsmann became in North America—Obama notwithstanding. A recent i95.5FM poll revealed that 52 percent of callers will welcome a new man at the helm but roughly half of the respondents still felt Hart can turn things around.

But the football body’s technical arm no longer appears to believe in the coach who was named on the CONCACAF Coach of the Year shortlist for two of his three and a half years in charge.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart (right) passes on instructions to left back Aubrey David during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart (right) passes on instructions to left back Aubrey David during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

At present, Hart leads a technical staff which includes Hutson “Barber” Charles, Derek King (both assistant coaches), Michael “Brown” Maurice (goalkeeper coach), Dave Isaacs (trainer), Tobias Ottley (trainer/conditioner), Dr Terence Babwah (doctor), Saron Joseph (massage therapist), William Wallace (team manager) and Shaun Fuentes (media officer).

Former UWI SPEC director and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) sporting director, Justin Latapy-George, is also expected to be formally unveiled as successor to interim general secretary Azaad Khan at either Wednesday’s special general meeting or Saturday’s AGM.

Latapy-George is the younger brother of former World Cup 2006 player and local sporting icon Russell Latapy, who is employed by the TTFA as a youth coach at present.

Incidentally, controversial former TTFA general secretary Richard Groden was part of John-Williams’ screening committee for the general secretary post.

Groden was publicly warned by FIFA for his role in the infamous cash-for-votes scandal, which saw then vice-president Jack Warner banned for life, while he was intertwined in the World Cup 2006 bonus case between 12 players and the football body.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (far right) holds court with (from left) TTFA interim general secretary Azaad Khan, president David John-Williams, technical committee member Muhammad Isa and TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis in December 2015. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (far right) holds court with (from left) TTFA interim general secretary Azaad Khan, president David John-Williams, technical committee member Muhammad Isa and TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis in December 2015.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Despite a High Court order, Groden refused to reveal what money was banked by the TTFA during its Germany 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign—even under the threat of contempt for court—and the two parties eventually settled out of court.

However, Groden became a cooperative witness for FIFA against Warner and helped steady the football body at its lowest ebb after the departure of the Special Advisor in 2011. He was replaced as general secretary by Sheldon Phillips in May 2013.

Latapy-George, whose appointment is the call of the football president according to the constitution, seems set to become the body’s fourth general secretary in 13 months, after Phillips and interim appointments Paula Chester-Cumberbatch and Khan.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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155 comments

  1. Why are so many Trinidadians so insecure and suffer from this inferiority complex where they need a foreign coach to come to save them.. Hart was doing fine until the tyrant was appointed and everything went down hill ..because the tffa are corrupt

  2. Replace the ttfa. . I’m shocked to hear the idiots they have on the board still.. what a joke.. Hart needs real football people there.. one set of curry favor and none of them have the football iq

  3. The US don’t stick. Them made a change already. Trinidad too backwards

  4. Changing the coach ain’t make sense dropping kenwyn Jones might make a difference …😔 that’s just my views

  5. Changin coach during ah tournament doh make sense hart need tuh drop summah dem shit hounds

  6. you listen some commentators and you start to believe that Trinidad and Tobago has a population of over 10 million to choose from…………..each and everytime that the National Team takes the field it becomes a case of David vs Goliath…………..and we on the sidelines WILL DO WELL to realise that and try being more supportive………….and STOP WAITING until ” mission accompli “!!!

  7. Here we go again…..saw this before

  8. D games big people play. If you going to fire the man fire him.

  9. IT has noting to do with hart every game you playing with one man short replace the captain and the hold side would now play the game hart have plan for the team ,now is the time K.J give somebody the arm ban just like wi team you have falldown and dead or get old before they make that move

  10. Simon Benjamin i agree with you.

  11. Mr Brian Harry the old saying is those who has eyes to see would see and those who have ears to hear would hear, look closely people at the problems with some players on and off the pitch,listen now to the technical staff divided,and then look at our results thus far.
    This may not be enough to enlighten you sir

  12. Just change kenwayne jones..and dat come like ah bypass

  13. That TTFA statement sounds like a railroad to nonsense. Very unprofessional and quite distasteful!!

  14. Fire d damn captain an the whole mindset of the team will change for the better,make Bocaud who is quietly being exiled an is our best midfielder the skipper

  15. Or and before I forget look at the crowd support at the last World Cup game against Costa Rica eh, only about 13,000 eh and most of the crowd like if they was attending a show on Broadway in the theater steeuppss quiet, quiet, quiet, but the Costa Rica team had about 50 supporters eh and you can hear then chanting and making a set ah noise eh from the beginning to the end of the game and they were also dancing to our music to eh, it was only Shawn Abasali, his brother and crew that is always in the stadium with his bull horn trying to get the crowd to make ah set ah noise eh. I attended the game on Sunday in the Barataria complex San Juan Jabolteh vs Rangers eh and if you see the little a crowd compared to when Jabolteh played on the same field vs Army eh, so because it was against Rangers eh plenty crowd didn’t attend the game eh, and they always want to beat up my second sweetest country eh.Them really good yes.

  16. Shawn Abasali I agree with you 1000% , and the problem isn’t really our Coaches eh, well at least some of them, the real problems are with some of our players who really feels that they are all that eh, and when most of them goes on trials in the real football countries eh, they are sent right back on the iron bird because they are not ready as yet and the owners of the professional teams in our sweet country does be asking for big, big monies for them to eh steeuupss Look where most of them are plying their trade eh in the bootleg MLS league, NASL, USL, and the lower division leagues in Europe to eh, and this is just to show us that they never really learn ‘t the subject from some of the youth Coaches back in the days eh, and no fault of theirs nah hence the reason why I will keep on saying unless there are top of the line Youth developmental Coaching schools and there is a real professional league in our sweet country eh, we can forgetting about competing with the real organized professional leagues abroad, where many of the players that are representing their countries continues to play in the real top flight professional leagues abroad. Them really good yes.

  17. The writing has been on the wall as soon as the new king ascended the throne. It has been widely assumed that the powers that be wanted to install Latapy in the position of Head Coach for many months.

  18. We just don’t have what it takes to be out there right now.

  19. a step back wards it was in the writing on the wall wicfh i blame as the main distraction that has us nin this position at this moment .

  20. Earl Mango Pierre these players not convince Mr.Hart is the right coach for them,and Mr Hart still believe in them,why you still holding on to a runaway train🙁

  21. Lasana Liburd make it a headline or issue an apology that was a big part of the story! And this story have many threads and this is d only thread that retraction on stop feedings d mob!!

    • Coach Hart is my coach!! I start with that but coaches live and die by results. Coach results have totally taken a nose dive in the last year and initially i thought it was just a period of unsettlement that he would have worked through but from d lost to Haiti in the copa play off, to the lost to Caribbean cup to now the loss in the two world cup games something have gone wrong. Team selection is puzzling so is team tactics something has to b done whether firing him is d solution i don’t know, he has earned the right to lead us in the hex but this is bigger than d individual. If coach Hart can’t come up with concrete solutions going forward let the chips fall where they may! On a side note Lasana Liburd i feel that coach Hart have allowed his personal uneasy of job security to spread among the team and this is being fed by the media and public! Hart needs a coach Randy waldrum moment to galvanize his team and push forward!! The question is can he find one??

    • Gordon Pierre I respect your contribution. As a National coach myself, in a different sport , I think you need to undestand that in order to ‘galvanize’ a team you need full support of the Administration. Coach Hart does not have that. He does not have the Administrative support to get friendly matches nor does he have their support to get proper travel arrangements or practice fields.
      Gordon if you can work under those conditions and produce results I salute you.
      Once we work outside of Trinidad & Tobago with National teams of other countries we will realize how backward our system is here and how predatory and selfish our Administrators are.

    • If I may also add. When you have parents pulling their children off a National team because they are being rested or riding the bench and use the guise of “he is injured” you will realize what my statement meant when I said we are predatory and selfish. In my system I don’t care how good you are if you pull out you go home. You are never too good and regardless of what people say about small talent pool that is hogwash.

    • Tony Maxwell Hatt i agree with u how backward we are in terms of our system but i disagree that he didn’t have d support for friendly matches in fact he was refusing them because he couldn’t get his best team available bc of club commitments, the training on d national stadium field was a sportt company issue not ttfa. Personally i found that coach Hart allowed his perception of DJW to almost paralyze him in the way he operates, its a great shame because they are the two best men for their respective jobs if only trust and respect could be restored in that relationship!! Smh

    • Actually we just don’t have the ‘stones’ to stand up to those in positions of authority for fear of retribution.
      We fear for our jobs because these people only know one thing – get rid of him if he is not on board.
      I was filming a workout with a sophisticated slow motion action camera and the manager of one of our stadiums told me that cameras are not allowed. My intention was to observe and correct stride pattern and length etc.
      That is where we are now. I did eventually get to finish the filming however the next session he told me to not walk on the grass because it’s a football stadium.
      I just laugh at our inadequate system.

    • Check the headline again Gordon. And I won’t be taken on a tangent with something that was one paragraph. The story is the decision of the technical committee.
      I cannot prove what the source said or what DJW said. But I published his denial in fairness to him. That’s it.

    • Put it in d story bc it shaped a big part of the story!! Or guess as usual i can’t understand!! U just sneak it in by chance

    • No mister man realize how quiet i am on this issue? Just as i was quiet about Latapy coaching in U 17 tournament

    • So what is your take then Gordon?

  22. I wonder if Fenwick wanna/gonna get een this mix …… Just wondering

  23. “TTFA president David John-Williams denied rumours that he travelled to South America, almost immediately after the Costa Rica defeat, to sound out potential replacements for Hart or that Jamaica 1998 World Cup coach Rene Simoes— a Brazilian who also had a brief, unsuccessful stint with Trinidad and Tobago in 2001—is the preferred choice.

    Instead, John-Williams insisted that he only left the country to attend a CONCACAF course in Miami.”

  24. And doh matter who gets the job eh. our Soca Worries still won’t be going back to any World Cup in a hurry, where will the real World Cup players coming from eh, “JUPITER “steeuuppss. Them really good yes,

  25. Underlying the calls to sack the coach seems to be the assumption that the coach is at fault and the players are the greatest! Good luck with that !

  26. Latapy came to take Hart’s job. Thewriting is on the wall. The deal is done both Latapys are in

  27. Just heard Dr Babwah and possibly one other member of technical staff resigned.

  28. i said when the game against Honduras was in progress that the little magician would replace Hart and now his brother has a has been appointed to some position connect the dots people. I do not agree but that is the direction we look to be heading in.

  29. Hannibal Najjar

    I am very encouraged by the substantive contributions made in this episode. The heart of the team’s problem is in some way on the hands of Hart but more so, it belongs to the entire team. First, I’d like to say that qualifying out of the HEX is, in and unto itself, a monumental task, this, even if we were at our best. Remember the quality of the team, its collective experience, and, the coach – the size of the dog in the fight back in the HEX for 2006 was somewhat big? Expect some Trini lingo from here, as dis one really hurts and it churns meh inside! And even then, what had to happen – many a pull and tug to geh de 4th place that den take we to a neat 1-1 tie at home followed by dat dramatic 1-0 win in, wid a memorable header from we long-man, in Bahrain. The level at the HEX is a serious notch above where we are altogether in we football. And, given what has transpired dating back to and before the Guatemala game, at home, with dem three stooges breaking camp, the climb was then made more difficult as we was now incurred a limp, a small fracture to go wid it. And as if dat wasn’t enough damage, chief stooge, Kevin Bergdhal Molino, Molidghal, came along and saw it fit to, in quick succession, break camp again – and from what we understand, all by he lonesome self. De small fracture now became compounded, and we “Trini-to-de-bone” effort that all had been giving to geh we to and take we through de HEX, was now evermore thwarted. My contention is that Hart did have a hand in the slide when he elected to play Molidghal, and maybe de udder two, in the Guatemala game. Den, dat bugger had de gall to drop annuder plank on we, telling he country dat he want a year off from national competition – wha de rarse rong wid he! But now, the issue is not Hart, it is wid de the HEART of the team – what we have in we to get over this first two-game, “0” point, hurdle and to get sized up for the March encounters as when we host powerhouse, El Tri, and then, surging and ever-competent Panama in, Canal-land – sorry for the pun, buh, by then, we could really be in de canal. I continue to say that we are a wounded club and wounded nation and this gives us a chance to show what we are made of, what only a true champion is like – I use a motivational phrase that I coined in 1994 with the Belhaven University, No. 1 nationally ranked, team, to build our confidence, “A true champion is one who gets up when lame, shares the fame, and always takes the blame”. What we have at hand, is best illustrated in the Wounded Warriors Project, for Warriors we are, and wounded we are too; and only True Champions, rise up to deal with the wound and, wounded. Read Bruce Lee’s, The Warrior Within, those who want some inspiration from the small, big man.
    Hart should be allowed to show what he has left in him and if the team is truly still with him. He should be given the two January games against no-goats, Suriname and Haiti as we aim to reach the Gold Cup, a much needed phase as we try to stay on the HEX task. If he fails, and already we have to also understand that we have not shown to do too well at home to equal-to or, better-than us, teams, then he goes!
    A caution to anyone that might be taking over from Hart, if we go that route whether now or after January, doh give Molidghal he place back – puh he arse through some serious bench wringers, and leh he re-earn he stripes and respect. He is good and needed but he has to geh rid of de old self and put on de new; punto finale! And, I say wid that, shound JA, JK (Klinsman) gorn, de task geh even harder – dat US team back in business with Arena or Vermes at the helm – dey go play like dey could play – hard, disciplined, and organized. We assignment just gorn from stone hard to, diamond hard. Buh, as we said, it go take de True Champion in each one ah we, whaever happens. Preparation will be our key: don’t prepare and we don’t have a chance, and prepare and we only give ourselves that chance – no guarantees. C’est la vie; que sera, sera! Wha come, come!

    • Lasana Liburd

      Well, at least we always expected USA to be above us. I think they would have started winning games anyway, even if they kept Klinsmann. But we have our own problems.
      I agree with you in principle on Molino. But the reality is we need to start winning games quickly. And whoever is in charge, they can see that the team needs extra quality. We don’t have much of that lying around.
      If they want our best shot at qualifying, they almost certainly will call Molino, have a firm talk with him and cross their fingers.