Former World Cup 2006 midfielder and England Premier League player, Carlos Edwards, will wear the armband tomorrow when Tom Saintfiet makes his bow as Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach in a friendly away to Nicaragua.
The two nations kick off in Managua from at 8:30pm (TT time)—6:30pm in Nicaragua—on Tuesday 27 December and again on Friday 30 December.
The friendlies will serve as preparation for the Gold Cup campaigns of both nations. Trinidad and Tobago host Suriname and Haiti in playoff matches on 4 and 8 January respectively.
Edwards has not represented the Soca Warriors since 19 November 2013 when he featured in a 2-0 friendly win over Jamaica in Port of Spain. He told the TTFA Media that he was honoured to be given the armband and wanted to help make Trinidad and Tobago successful once more.
The 38-year-old Ma Pau Stars full back warned his younger teammates not to expect him to do it on his own, though.
“It’s a big privilege to wear the captain’s armband,” said Edwards. “Yes, I will have a bit of responsibility. I think he has chosen me because of the experience and to have me put my arms around the younger guys and lead them in the right direction.
“At the end of the day, everyone has to pull their weight. They just can’t look up to me and think I will orchestrate everything.
“I am here for one reason which is to make the country and the team successful once again.”
At present, Saintfiet has 20 players available in Managua while United States-based midfielder Kevan George should join the squad on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Marvin Phillip missed the tour through injury while defender Tristan Hodge was dropped for disciplinary reasons.
Edwards commended Saintfiet’s work in Trinidad so far.
“So far things have been really productive,” said Edwards. “We’ve been put through our paces. He’s started off on the right foot, making sure the players are fit and ready for the game and also to have a nice little bond.
“He called the camp in the right time so that the players can get to know each other.”
Saintfiet, who spent the bulk of his career coaching in Africa and was at Bangladesh before he got the Trinidad and Tobago job, said he is looking for “a decent result” in Nicaragua,
“It’s always special and it’s an honour to be national team coach of any country and Trinidad and Tobago is naturally a big football nation,” the Belgian coach told the TTFA Media. “So it’s now […] a fresh start and we are going to use these two matches against Nicaragua to prepare our team for the Gold Cup and later on for the World Cup qualifiers.
“It won’t be easy matches. Nicaragua is also a strong football country. In the last games of the World Cup qualifiers they beat Jamaica at home 3-2 and in the last year they also won friendly matches against Cuba 5-0 and Panama 1-0…
“Naturally you want always a good result but I don’t think at the moment that’s the most important thing. We could win both matches against Nicaragua and lose in the qualifiers for the Gold Cup and World Cup. So I would prefer to win the World Cup qualifiers and, if possible, the Gold Cup qualifiers. But, on the other side, if you play a game, you play to win.”
Trinidad and Tobago have never lost to Nicaragua, although both teams played to a goalless draw in Port of Spain last year.
Nicaragua qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup seven years ago in 2009. However, before that, their last appearance in the confederation’s showpiece competition was in 1967.
At present, Nicaragua are ranked 124th in the world by FIFA—just four places above the Dominican Republic—while Trinidad and Tobago are 78th.
Saintfiet said he will pay more attention to the performance than the result tomorrow.
“Most important for me is to see tomorrow a team which understands the tactical concept that I want,” said Saintfiet, “[and] can implement it on the pitch, play disciplined and have both offensive and defensive tasks of what I request.
“If that results in a good result I will be happy coach. And if that doesn’t result in a good result, I will be still satisfied if I see what we did in practice.”
Saintfiet took just four players to Nicaragua who featured in Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras on 15 November 2016. Three of the four-man defence for former coach Stephen Hart’s last fixture—Daneil Cyrus, Carlyle Mitchell and Aubrey David—are all available tomorrow along with attacker Trevin Caesar.
Former captain Kenwyne Jones was dropped, goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was overlooked, back-up custodian Marvin Phillip is injured and Sheldon Bateau, Cordell Cato, Khaleem Hyland, Joevin Jones, Levi Garcia and Willis Plaza are all unavailable.
(Trinidad and Tobago 20-man squad for Nicaragua)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars);
Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Paul Stars), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—Korea Republic), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kallen—Estonia), Daneil Cyrus, Maurice Ford (both W Connection), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica),
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Alvin Jones, Hughtun Hector (both W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC), Nathan Lewis, Tyrone Charles (both San Juan Jabloteh);
Forwards: Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA), Akeem Roach (Club Sando), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Cornell Glen (Ozone FC Bengalaru—India).
Technical staff: Tom Saintfiet (head coach), Jamaal Shabazz (assistant coach), Lukas Wojciak (goalkeeper coach), Riedoh Berdien (trainer), Dr Terence Babwah (doctor), Dave Isaac (paramedic), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Shaun Fuentes (press officer), Azaad Khan (interim manager).
Late arrival: Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA) will join the time in time for their second outing against Nicaragua on 30 December.