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Christmas is cancelled: Saintfiet starts T&T football adventure in Nicaragua on Dec 27 

Forget Santa Claus, the Soca Warriors will spend Christmas with new Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) confirmed today that Saintfiet will begin his adventure with the National Senior Team on 27 and 31 December 2016 in Nicaragua. The Warriors will depart for Nicaragua on Christmas Day.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (right) takes on Nicaragua right back Joseue Quijano during friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 October 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (right) takes on Nicaragua right back Joseue Quijano during friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 October 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Saintfiet told the TTFA Media that the two matches against Nicaragua should be vital preparation for next month’s 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifiers against Suriname and Haiti.

“I am very happy that the Football Association has been able to arrange these two friendly matches at such short notice,” said Saintfiet, “because these will be important preparation games for us before the important Gold Cup qualifiers in January.

“It also helps me as coach to analyse the players we will select and as well as to implement and try out possible strategies which we will want to use in our matches to follow.”

It is uncertain what players will be available for selection. Apart from the Pro League players, Trinidad and Tobago’s Major League Soccer (MLS) contingent are home on their off-season along with Republic of Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell.

Netherlands-based winger Levi Garcia is also likely to be back on winter break.

However, the two games against Nicaragua along with the Gold Cup qualifiers against Suriname and Haiti—on 4 and 6 January 2017 respectively—fall outside of the FIFA match window and clubs are not obliged to release players to take part.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from left) welcomes new National Senior Team coach Tim Saintfiet (second from right) during a press conference at the Marriott Hotel on 7 December 2016. Looking on is new general secretary Justin Latapy-George (far left) and technical director Muhammad Isa. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from left) welcomes new National Senior Team coach Tim Saintfiet (second from right) during a press conference at the Marriott Hotel on 7 December 2016.
Looking on is new general secretary Justin Latapy-George (far left) and technical director Muhammad Isa.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Saintfiet promised to take a strong side to Nicaragua.

“We are still not sure about the availability of some of the European-based players and whether they will be released by their clubs,” said Saintfiet, “because these two games and also the ones in January are not within the FIFA dates.

“But I promise you that the players who will be selected from both foreign and local teams will form a strong squad to give us decent results in Nicaragua and to help us prepare for the important matches in January.”

Nicaragua, who are ranked 99th in the world, drew goalless with the Warriors at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 October 2015. Trinidad and Tobago have never lost to Nicaragua in an international match.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago are on a three-game losing streak following defeats to Martinique, Costa Rica and Honduras, which led to the replacement of former coach Stephen Hart.

Saintfiet has until March—and two Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico at the Hasely Crawford Stadium—to set that right.

Photo Trinidad and Tobago defender Yohance Marshall (left) wins a header from Mexico defender Yasser Corona in CONCACAF 2015 Gold Cup action. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo Trinidad and Tobago defender Yohance Marshall (left) wins a header from Mexico defender Yasser Corona in CONCACAF 2015 Gold Cup action.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

TTFA president David John-Williams vowed that the Belgian coach, who last led the Bangladesh national team, will have to look for a job if he doesn’t get four points from those two upcoming qualifiers.

The local football body is yet to name Saintfiet’s backroom staff.

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113 comments

  1. At least he getting friendlies did Hart have the same luxery i whish him the best

  2. Marcus, anybody can be assistant coach right now. From dozens of people. I am not that interested in speculating to be honest.
    I’d think it unwise for Stuart to take that role at this point in time personally.

  3. I saw it in the Guardian that’s why I asked. Since it was stated he could be an assistant coach that’s why I am asking

  4. I don’t feel Bostock coming again. ….. after Hart gone …pretty sure he smell the rat now …..

  5. All the big ballers in the world have either trained, played or travelled on Christmas Day! I can’t even believe the title read “Christmas cancelled”
    It should have been “rapid response” or “a stroke of genius” some of our players are not even Christian so basically Christmas is a party! As a nation we need more optimistic professionalism.

    • La Liga and many other leagues go on winter break before Christmas. And there are no England Premier League games on Christmas. They play on Boxing Day.
      Yes, they may train. What many teams would do is a light session for one hour with enough time to get home for Christmas breakfast and lunch.
      Any manager who did different in Britain did it as punishment. I covered the UK leagues extensively.

    • Lasana Liburd could be worse I guess, Mexico’s La Liga MX final is being held on xmas day this year!

    • Lasana Liburd I don’t think I agree bro! I think playing football is a privilege and it’s a 24/7 job but I guess I don’t have a wife or kids! And I yes I understand where you are coming from but most of these international ballers don’t even have their family with them.

    • If you have to, then you have to. I’ve worked on many holidays before. I will put it this way, if Beenhakker asked you to come out on Christmas then you do it out of respect and because you think it is a sacrifice that will pay off.
      It is harder when you are a newbie with a scanty CV.

  6. Good call. It shows we mean business. Friendlies are important learning platforms. Any player who in as so much as hesitates or shows the slightest resistance to report for duty because it’s Christmas should be benched or dismissed from the team

    • It is very easy to find players to drop. But the reality is we have a small pool of players capable of playing at CONCACAF level. And this coach has no time to develop such players.
      So what does he do?

    • Their bodies might be present but their minds likely be elsewhere. I recall a TT team leaving on Carnival Friday to play a regional cricket 4 day game with Bdos . The game was finished in 2 days and the losers were back in time for Jouvert.

    • Use his leadership/coaching skills and get them motivated. If after that they still don’t want to go then find others who would jump at the opportunity. We have too many big cry babies in T&T playing this game that really don’t like us. We need leaders on and off the field.

    • His leadership/coaching skills? First he needs to convince the team that he has that. It isn’t evident in his CV. Whatever anyone else might think, I can assure you that the national team is not particularly impressed at all so far.

    • T&T football has been taken 50 years backwards by DJW and his bunch of not so merry men

    • Yep, his leadership and coaching skills! Whatever that might be. Like you, I am puzzled by his appointment. Regardless, he has a job to do. It’s a huge challenge because ‘none’ of our players impress me one bit. They are ill-disciplined, seem incapable of learning & executing new strategies

    • Matthew Alexander quantify that statement cause you might need some salt and pepper.

    • Enlighten us how the local game has gone backward because of DJW.

    • Let me start Jamaal… We went from a coach who was twice on a shortlist of the best coaches in the confederation and made the Gold Cup knockout rounds on four occasions–only one Trinidad coach ever made it there once–from five tries… to a guy who has never lifted a trophy, even in the Faroe Islands, and his biggest claim to fame is being considered for a Nigeria job he didn’t get.

    • So based on that the game has been taken back 50 years ? Hardly…I never like to dwell on coaches performance as a Coach myself ….so it’s not fair for me to comment on Coach Hart any more than I did in what I thought could have been done differently….But the Coach is more qualified than most coaches ….and you have chosen to highlight his minor appointments rather than his major ones

    • Remember who my choice was…but having seen the TTFA made their choice and having had a few discussions with the man….I think he has a clear idea of how he wants the team to play. I prefer to wait and see how he embarks on his task

    • Track records can be tempered by motivation ….organized efficiency and a bit of luck in coaching….why …when I went to Guyana my track record was only in womens football ….3 Mt Dor Big 4 titles….I did not fare to badly there

    • And how has the game been thrown back 50 years on that account ?

    • Jamaal Shabazz qualifications? That doesn’t say much here. His track record is abysmal. This guy seems nothing more than a mercenary. It’s hard to justify his selection as coach of our national team.

    • I didn’t say 50 years Jamaal But that is one decision that was a regressive move to move. And they add up.

    • Well the future has a way of answering things that we do not have a crystal ball for. My purpose is not to defend his appointment but now as an employee and a stakeholder in the game….do my part to make it work. Having said that again was I a mercenary when I went to Guyana…many there felt so…I ended up being more Guyanese than those born in Guyana. If a mercenary identifies with my cause and then he sacrifices as I sacrifice and believe what I believe….then he can become an ally.

    • Jamaal Shabazz not saying that about you, but I’ve read how this coach jumped around, leaving one job without properly informing his employers, only to have to crawl back when the next job fell through. You went to Guyana on a good will; you’ve always recruited from there for your club.

    • Nigel I think as someone said …Lasana needs to interview the guy. Let’s hear his side for instance why he left the job in Nigeria after 5 months….I questioned him on a few things …I would love to see say his piece to tough questions….

    • Jamaal, I would like to see his team in action first. Then I’d be happy to interview him.

    • Matthew Alexander Hart record as a coach was not impressive the least, he never carried any team tobthe World Cup, neither have he coach in any top flight european league, and after coaching here is performance records as been ridiculously poor….2016 he lost 8 games, win 3, draw 2….is that good by your standard ??? And the wins came against caribbean teams st. Vincent homr and awat and DR…lets be real and fair

    • And in two years before 2016, Hart’s team had lost a grand total of two competitive games in regulation time–Haiti and Mexico–and two from penalties–Panama and Jamaica.
      And that is from one Caribbean Cup, two Gold Cups and the first round of World Cup qualifying in which they led the group all the way to the last match of the semifinal round. Those stats included three games against Mexico, two games against Guatemala and a game each against US, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, etc.
      But I don’t have time to go around in circles with you Trini.

    • I know u dont have time Lasana Liburd, thats y i address Matthew Alexander 😂😂

    • But for Stephen Hart entire tenure he was in charge for about 43 games over 3 and half years, and he inly won 16 games !!!! In 2014 there about he won 5 games against caribbean teams, all ranking over 100 on fifa charts, is that something to pour champagne about Matthew Alexander ???? Jus asking….and Jamaal Shabazz I angree and endorse all that you have said…you bring a breath of fresh air on wired868 volley

    • Trini Don, if Hart’s performance was ridiculously poor then what do you make of Saintfiet’s record?

    • Nigel Myers Tom has not took charge of a game yet…ok

  7. Sorry but I think it’s a big big mistake to ask a TT team in any sport to leave home Christmas Day to play a friendly. Good luck with that

  8. Some of those players gonna get food poisoning they not gonna take dat trip on Christmas day

  9. Huhhh dey leaving Christmas day boi against who boi

  10. Nicaragua is an ideal opponent for hex prep. And this is a great chance to give saintfiet the oppurtunity to learn our local/north American based players which he wouldn’t have much knowledge of. I would assume he would have information on our Europe based players.

    It would have been nice if one of the matches was home though.

  11. Well, at least some of you are optimistic….
    #RattansCoach

  12. So wait nah, the Coach said that we will be picking a strong side to play against Nicaragua eh, so what is taking so long for the TTFA to say who will be his assistants eh. Them really good yes.

  13. Ha reminds me of W Connections 2014 Suriname trip Christmas trip that I was on

  14. I sensing some withdrawals coming…

  15. The whole of Trinidad should cancel Christmas

  16. He have two games to save his ass no time to lose we’ll see who committed now.

  17. John Bostock is on break from Dec 17th to Jan 13th, great time to finally see him play. Also bring Molino and Keron Cummings. Next week will be a good time to try out some new players as well.

  18. Lasana Liburd, can you get an interview with the coach where he gives us some insight on his philosophy on how the game should be played? Curious to see what school of thought he falls under.

  19. Who is DJW appointed yes man that will be ” assisting ” the new coach in picking the team for this tour, as the new coach is not familiar with any of the players ? Or is the coach just going with the 23 from the last two Hex games?

  20. We playing Caribbean opponents in January so these two games vs Nicaragua would actually be good prep for the Hex games vs fellow Central Americans Panama & Mexico

    • It is good opposition at this stage. Not too weak, not too strong. Just stiff enough for a squad that might have a lot of Pro League players in it.

    • Agreed! Very positive move… excited to see the team selection

    • Whoa! I didn’t go that far yet. Lol. I have no idea if it is a good idea for him at this point. Anything that doesn’t get him onside with the players probably isn’t a good idea.
      He has been given such little clout from the start that he is at the mercy of his players. If they don’t like it, then it is a bad move. Because he will be unemployed by his birthday if he cannot inspire them.

    • Well as much I resent his appointment as I’m sure several of the players do too like it or not he is the Gaffer til at least March 28th and not performing isn’t going to hurt HIS reputation such as it is but rather the players who need to remember not getting picked has implications for those who want to play in England.

    • After their last performances, you would think the team would be excited to get back on the field and prove themselves and also see what the new coach brings. If big man go sweat missing christmas after the crap they put down recently, they don’t need to be on the team. Call me Scrooge,

    • I don’t think this squad is stuffed with mature minds Brian and Gerard. We see plenty examples of that.
      And coach can’t force them. He someone has to woo them.
      I don’t think most of those players want to play England. They may say so. But they don’t mean it. Because they don’t put the work in it.
      Not all of course. But too many.

    • Lasana Liburd After their last performances, you would think the team would be excited to get back on the field and prove themselves and also see what the new coach brings. If big man go sweat missing christmas after the crap they put down recently, they don’t need to be on the team. Call me Scrooge,

    • I’ve always felt the main issue in the squad was the mental weakness and lack of star quality in the squad. In that sense, Tom can’t really be blamed much for what happens next unless it becomes embarrassing.

    • Lasana Liburd you making excuses for him already. You are a real trooper.

    • Lol. I’m not making issues for him. I don’t think he is the best man for the job. But I’m just acknowledging that it’s a difficult job and part of the reason is we no longer have nearly a dozen player in European top flight competitions with that sort of winning mentality.

  21. Perfect way to win over players. Sour they Christmas 🎄

  22. I was staying home and eat ham.

  23. I don’t think the players were showing that commitment to their own suppose desire to go to the World Cup at the end. So good luck if he can revive that.
    But like I said, this is just about motivation here. We ent reach to if he is any good as a coach yet. His CV doesn’t suggest he is much good at winning football matches.
    So what is left for T&T fans now?
    Let’s see if he can make an early impression with the squad at least.

  24. I want to see he cancel Carnival then I know he serious.

  25. The way I see it is we need 23 players who don’t care about anything but Russia 2018 so whoever is sulking needs to find another country to play for! You don’t get to celebrate when you are this close to becoming a legend!

  26. It is good for him to get them in camp soon. But the players have the power in this relationship. They know they will be here longer than he will essentially.
    So he really has to use that psychology degree and get them on side. That won’t be easy. And we are not even talking the football side of things yet.

  27. Great start, no time for fun and games in the hex