Lawrence’s Warriors set new losing record; Wired868 looks at T&T’s five longest winless streaks

On Friday night, Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence set an unflattering record as he oversaw his seventh straight defeat at the helm when the Soca Warriors failed to hold on to a one-goal advantage against Mexico and eventually succumbed 3-1 in World Cup qualifying action.

Photo: Mexico forward Javier Hernandez (right) strikes the ball as Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George looks on during World Cup qualifying action in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on 6 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Yuri Cortez)

The current streak eclipses the six-match losing spell of the Trinidad and Tobago team between 1955 and 1957—although it is hard to know who should get the credit for that gloomy period, which stretched over two calendar years. The national players were managed by Sonny Vincent-Brown but, in that era, it was the captain on any given day who would select the starting team and tactics.

And Trinidad and Tobago, with former captain and goalkeeper Joey Gonsalves recently retired and attacker Carlton “Squeaky” Hinds past his best, lost three games apiece to Suriname and Jamaica.

But how does the Warriors’ current barren spell of nine matches without a win—eight defeats and one draw—stack up against the country’s worst runs in its 112 years as a football playing nation?

Wired868 rummaged through the archives for Trinidad and Tobago’s five longest winless streaks and spoke to former players and administrators Everald “Gally” Cummings, Selby Browne, Alvin Corneal, Edgar Vidale, Clayton “JB” Morris and Leroy De Leon to get the stories behind them:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker (standing) considers his options during 2006 World Cup action against England.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

5. Leo Beenhakker and Wim Rijsbergen. Eight winless matches with three successive defeats.

Sequence: 10 May 2006 to 9 September 2006. D-L-L-L-D-L-L-L. (Competitive matches in italics).

Opponents: Peru [H] 1-1, Wales [A] 1-2, Slovenia [A] 1-3, Czech Republic [A] 0-3, Sweden [N] 0-0, England [N] 0-2, Paraguay [N] 0-2, Japan [A] 0-2.

The year 2006 will forever be fondly remembered  by Trinidad and Tobago fans although the actual ‘win column’ was pretty bleak—unsurprisingly when you look at the quality of the opposition.

Former Netherlands and Real Madrid coach Leo Beenhakker began his Germany World Cup preparations with a straightforward 2-0 friendly win over Iceland in London followed by a 1-1 draw against Peru in Port-of-Spain. But, once the serious business of the European pre-World Cup camp got underway, Trinidad and Tobago soon realised the weight of the task ahead, as they lost three successive internationals against Wales, Slovenia and Czech Republic.

Of course, Beenhakker was in experimental mode. Against Slovenia, for instance, Dwight Yorke played as a sweeper behind a four-man defence—the Dutchman returned the former Manchester United hitman to midfield in time for the showcase tournament, which the Warriors started with a goalless draw against Sweden.

A late roguish goal by beanpole striker and part-time hairdresser Peter Crouch sank Trinidad and Tobago in an eventual 2-0 loss to England while the Warriors then fell 2-0 to Paraguay in Beenhakker’s final match in charge.

Beenhakker’s assistant, Wim Rijsbergen, stayed in Port-of-Spain to continue the job and his opening game, away to Japan, stretched the winless run to eight matches—although, to be fair, hardly anybody was complaining at the time.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Zoran Vranes (second from left in background) trains with the National Football Team during the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign.
From left are: Russell Latapy, Brent Rahim, Dwight Yorke, Lyndon Andrews, Carlos Edwards and Wayne Lawson.
(Copyright AFP 2015/Juan Barreto)

4. Zoran Vranes and Sebastian de Araújo. Eight winless matches with four successive defeats.

Sequence: 28 July 1996 to 21 December 1996. D-L-L-D-L-L-L-L. (Competitive matches in italics). 

Opponents: Honduras [A] 0-0, Panama [A] 0-1, Costa Rica [H] 0-1, Guatemala [H] 1-1, USA [A] 0-2, USA [H] 0-1, Guatemala [A] 1-2, Costa Rica [A] 1-2.

Compared to Zoran Vranes, Tom Saintfiet got an eternity to prove himself as National Senior Team coach. The Montenegro-born Vranes helped Trinidad and Tobago sweep through the first qualifying round with a 12-0 aggregate win over the Dominican Republic but, after a friendly tie with Honduras and a loss to Panama—both away—and a World Cup semifinal round qualifying home defeat to Costa Rica by a miserly 1-0 margin, then TTFF special advisor Jack Warner pressed the panic button.

It would seem to have been an extreme decision, even if one ignored the fact that Trinidad and Tobago have never beaten Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier. But, to make things worse, Vranes was without the inspirational duo of Dwight Yorke and David Nakhid while team captain Russell Latapy was injured and replaced after just 45 minutes.

Warner recruited Brazilian Sebastiao Pereira de Araújo as his new head coach but, after a 1-1 draw against Guatemala in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago lost their next four matches in succession to finish with just one point from a possible 18.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) appeals to the referee’s assistant during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

3. Dennis Lawrence. Nine winless matches with seven successive defeats.

Sequence: 8 March 2017 to 6 October 2017. L-D-L-L-L-L-L-L-L. (Competitive matches in italics).

Opponents: Mexico (H) 0-1, Grenada (A) 2-2, United States (A) 0-2, Costa Rica (A) 1-2, Ecuador (A) 1-3, Jamaica (H) 1-2, Honduras (H) 1-2, Panama (A) 0-3, Mexico (A) 1-3.

Dennis Lawrence, a first-time head coach, started off well enough with a breezy friendly win over Barbados and a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama in Port-of-Spain.

He could claim to be unlucky too in his first loss, as a Joevin Jones item was incorrectly ruled out for offside in a 1-0 defeat to Mexico at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

But, once his team suffered its first defeat, Lawrence simply could not recover the winning habit with an arguably traumatised team that had lost two head coaches—Stephen Hart and Tom Saintfiet—in the space of three months.

An away friendly against Grenada should have been straightforward enough but the Soca Warriors drew 2-2 and it all went downhill from there as Lawrence’s troops lost a record seven straight games thereafter—two of them at home, where they fell 2-1 to an understrength Jamaica team and Honduras.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (left) walks past coach Dennis Lawrence during World Cup 2018 qualifying action against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

It did not help to learn that the TTFA had not paid its players for at least three quarters of their winless sequence; and there was some dark humour to be had when full-back Aubrey David and forward Jamille Boatswain offered to waive their international match fees after being caught playing minor league football—after all, the local football body had not paid them in months.

A measure of the off-the-field issues that plagued Lawrence’s time as head coach can be found in the lead-up to their do-or-die home match with Honduras on 1 September 2017.

The David John-Williams-led TTFA controversially moved the match from the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain to the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva—a ground that was half the size of the initial venue and blighted by traffic issues—and cut the quota of complimentary tickets for his unpaid players. Another cock-up saw key defender Sheldon Bateau arriving from Kazakhstan barely 48 hours before the start of the fixture while Honduras might have won the match via a protest anyway as a lighting tower malfunctioned before kick-off.

Despite holding the unenviable record for the longest run of defeats in Trinidad and Tobago’s history, Lawrence said he felt no pressure whatsoever. His predecessors would have envied his job security.

After two successive Gold Cup qualifying defeats against Suriname and Haiti in Couva—both in extra time—Saintfiet jumped before being pushed while Hart got his marching orders after three straight losses to Martinique (away in extra-time), Costa Rica and Honduras (away).

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

2. Roderick Warner. Twelve winless matches with three successive defeats.

Sequence: 3 March 1985 to 18 August 1985. L-D-D-D-L-DL-DL-L-L-L. (Competitive matches in italics). 

Opponents: Canada [H] 1-2, Guadeloupe [A] 1-1, Panama [A] 0-0, Panama [A] 1-1, Costa Rica [A] 0-3, Costa Rica [A] 1-1, Suriname [H] 0-1, Suriname [A] 0-0, USA [A] 1-2, USA [A] 0-1, Costa Rica [A] 1-3, Suriname [H] 1-1.

The exodus of local talent to the United States’ NASL professional league created friction with the TTFA at the time but also led to improved treatment for players. The likes of Everald “Gally” Cummings had successfully lobbied for professional players to be paid to represent their country for the first time while, roughly five years later, Russell Tesheira was spokesman for the local amateurs, who argued that their time should also be worth something.

It led to a situation where, by the mid-70s, foreign professionals received TT$1,500 per month for national duty while local amateurs got TT$300—when they could get then general secretary Jack Warner to honour the commitment, of course.

But when the likes of Cummings, Steve David, Warren Archibald and Wilfred Cave retired, the deal died with them. By 1985, it was a totally amateur national team—including a fresh-faced Clayton “JB” Morris and Brian Williams—with QRC’s PE teacher, Roderick Warner, as head coach while, as reward for representing their country, players rarely got more than a box of chicken and chips and a soft drink.

Photo: Former Strike Squad captain Clayton Morris (number 2) lunges into a tackle during international action.
(Copyright TT Football History)

According to Morris, when a request was made for remuneration the dismissive response from TTFA staff member Richard Groden went this way: “Allyuh getting a plane ride; what allyuh want again?”

Added to the unprofessional nature of the set-up, the TTFA sold its right to play home matches which forced the team to play two away games against Costa Rica and the United States. The returns in that short-lived 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign were three losses and one draw.

Warner [R] didn’t have much luck in friendly matches either—and the team played to six draws and as many defeats in a 12-match stretch.

“One day, we came off a plane and the TTFA gave us a form to fill out about what we thought of our coach,” said Morris. “We were supposed to put in the information and hand it unsigned. We did that and, about two weeks later, they told us our new coach was ‘Gally’ Cummings.”

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago national stand-out footballer and coach, Everald “Gally” Cummings.

1. Claude “River Vine” Maurice and Ken Henry. Twelve winless matches with two successive defeats.

Sequence: 2 December 1969 to 30 December 1971. L-L-D-L-D-D-D-L-D-L-L-D. (Competitive matches in italics). 

Opponents: Netherland Antilles [N] 1-3, Costa Rica [A] 0-5, Mexico [N] 0-0, Suriname [A] 2-3, Netherland Antilles [N] 1-1, Guyana [A] 1-1, Guyana [A] 1-1, Venezuela [A] 0-1, Honduras [H] 1-1, Mexico [H] 0-2, Haiti [H] 1-6, Cuba [H] 2-2.

The 1969 CONCACAF tournament in San José, Costa Rica was a period of change in  Trinidad and Tobago’s football as veteran standouts like Alvin Corneal, Sedley Joseph and Tyrone De La Bastide all announced their retirement in quick succession.

Inexplicably, the TTFA also withdrew invitations for the the NASL trio of iconic 28-year-old goalkeeper Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips, 25-year-old defender Victor Gamaldo and 25-year-old forward Gerry Browne after the Washington-based players asked for return tickets and match fees.

Leroy De Leon, Everald “Gally” Cummings and Wilfred “Bound to Score” Cave were all 21 years old while Warren “Laga” Archibald was 20 but they were already excelling as professionals in the pre-Pelé NASL competition. Unlike Phillips, Gamaldo and Browne, De Leon and company were already in Trinidad awaiting contract renewals from their North American employers, which made their involvement less costly for the TTFA.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football legend Everald “Gally” Cummings (centre) in action with the New York Cosmos in 1972.

Still, the gifted young brigade’s ideas about how players should be treated differed greatly from the thinking of then TTFA president Phil Douglin, who went to Costa Rica as Chef de Mission, and general secretary Eric James.

“They were eating filet mignon,” Cummings recalled, “and we were eating tripe!”

“They thought management was bigger than the team,” said De Leon, “and that was wrong.”

When water went at the players’ headquarters and Cummings had to carry a bucket of water up two flights of stairs to help his roommate, Wilfred Cave, finish his bath, the players had had enough and all hell broke loose.

The TTFA accused trainer Trevor “Burnt Boots” Smith of supposedly betraying his employers and siding with the players and ordered him to return home immediately, only for the players to insist that, if Smith left, they would all be on the same flight with him.

The football body relented temporarily but suspended the entire squad as soon as the tournament was over while Smith was banned for 15 years. The TTFA action led to Smith famously burning his football boots in Woodbrook while southern club, Point Fortin Civic, successfully filed a legal injunction to prevent the football body from victimising the players.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago icon Warren Archibald (right) wrongfoots NY Cosmos defender Barry Mahy while representing the Washington Darts in the NASL during the 1970s.

In the midst of the off-the-field drama, football was the obvious casualty as the talented squad suffered two losses and a draw in Costa Rica before going on a run of nine winless matches with a weakened, makeshift squad.

Claude “River Vine” Maurice was the tour coach in Costa Rica but did not have the respect of the players, who began to take instructions from player/assistant coach Gwenwyn Cust in mid-tournament. Once the team returned to Trinidad, Ken Henry took over but, with a weakened squad, his side went without a win in his first nine games as coach, which added up to a 12-match winless streak which lasted an entire year.

Still, they never lost more than two matches in a row. And, although Trinidad and Tobago finished second-from-bottom in the CONCACAF standings, De Leon’s performances were so mesmerising that he was named the MVP of the tournament.

He still remembers how his head coach, Maurice, “congratulated” him.

“Claude told me ‘is because we vote for you that you get that’,” said De Leon. “Not because of my performances, eh. But because they vote for me!

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago and Washington Darts legend Leroy De Leon.

“It was just the thinking at the time that players were nothing without the management and not the other way around.”

Many of the players from the 1969 outfit re-united memorably in 1973 when Trinidad and Tobago were robbed of a place at the Germany 1974 World Cup by a referee whom FIFA subsequently banned for life. But De Leon never made peace with the TTFA.

“They promised me TT$400 a month for three months to prepare for and then play in that tournament, which was TT$1,200,” said De Leon. “Up to now, I haven’t gotten a penny yet! So when they called me in 1973 and asked me to come and play in Haiti, I said ‘what about my money?’

“They never called me back…”

The bleak period of 1969 and 1970 eventually gave way to Trinidad and Tobago’s first super team in 1973—with Douglin and James giving way to Ken Galt and Jack Warner as TTFA president and general secretary respectively.

Time will tell if local football can again learn its lessons to rebound from a gloomy 2017.

Photo: The famous Trinidad and Tobago team of 1973, which was robbed of a place at the Germany 1974 World Cup.
(Copyright TT Football History)
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  1. At least he won the popularity contest against Saintfiet.

  2. Need to drain the swamp and change the mind set from the top downwards

  3. They just want to play for Trinidad for ranks. They have no idea what it takes. No legacy, history

  4. How many of these so called footballers know how to read and write? They should go back to school and learn a trade. Oh wait … no GATE.

    • Mitchel Hillview; Abu Bakr QRC; Bateau Fatima; Winchester Naparima; Boatswain St Benedicts; Paul University of South Florida; George University of Central; Hyland, Molino. J Jones Mucurapo; Cato. K Jones. M Williams. JM Williams St Anthonys.
      I answered you because I believe that is the impression some Trinbagonians have of football and our footballers. Football is a business and the players are employed professionals who expect a decent salary and work conditions like everyone else

  5. Great article Lasana Liburd.
    Nice lesson in our footballing history.

  6. These boys better off becoming the Trinidad bobsled team

  7. Seven consecutive defeats = “good job”?

  8. Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact last in your absence. TTFF President u got to go

  9. Get rid of Lawrence. The man don’t know what he’s doing. That’s a fact. Who vex loss.

  10. It’s not the footballers is d asses on top

  11. Lawrence has never been the right man for the job … He towed the line with the dictator

  12. DL and DJW and the board should do the right thing; and resign..

  13. Lawrence is not to blame, he came after two sackings and also inherited an indiscipline side and not to mention players that not that talented..They need to regroup and scout for new players..We could only keep about 3 or 4 of the current players so we basically need a new team.

    • If the players as you are are indisciplined and not that talented, then what did we really hope to achieve by putting a rookie head coach in charge? Why should Lawrence get a free pass? He accepted the challenge, and if we performed well, he would have received praise, so he needs to accept part of de blame as well.

  14. Need to start with a fresh team,coach and TTFA

  15. ..I will just remind you that we began this dismal campaign under Hart with a drubbing of Guatemala. At the 2015 Gold Cup and jus after it we drew with Mexico. I could go on. Talk about a country’s size and population is useless. China and India will never play a World Cup final. Iceland did well at the last Euro. WE qualified for Germany. I like Dennis and I wish him well. He was my player at Malick and we still communicate. But, from a professional standpoint, with this string of losses he is fortunate to still be employed.

  16. Level bothride and smallies …………no kinda conditioning and professionalism cyah blame d coach alone Hart stand up to d slackness he get axe Lawrence come in he say he ain’t go be so rigid man mus lime … cup 20neva here we come

  17. People are quick to use cliches like ‘acceptance of mediocre standards’ but don’t look at the historical perspective, the population size and the poor administrative and financial constraints that exist in T&T where football is concerned. We are competing against larger nations with more money invested and priority given to football. T&T also had a bad start with a relatively young team and never caught up. Don’t agree with the glib cliches as we have never had a ‘high standard’ and probably never will.

  18. A poor craftsman blames his tools.

  19. Is years now i stop paying attention to these guys. Set ah jokers

  20. Lasana Liburd from you article I gather that, the TTFA has been ill treating players for decades and nothing g a s changed.

  21. ..More could be said of Hart, who never lost seven comsecutively and beat good teams too. Seven losses in a row at any level is burdensome. In a serious football country the SMNT is not a developmental team..

  22. The hole point about Trinidad football is that them fellas not really serious is because plenty of them no that they playing overseas so they must call them to play but if u give plenty locals a chance they might do a little better because they will put their heart and soul to represent their country is only if JACK WARNER come back in football then Trinidad will see another world cup they could bring my best coach in the world JOSE MOURINO still we ain’t ready for no world cup take my advice

    • 1) if they playing overseas, bet your money they are serious. All of Trinbago games are shown on TV for the whole world to see. Scouts know what to look for.
      2) When the locals (Boatswain and bulletless Cummings) get a chance to play an impressive couple games, a foreign team will sign them and you back to square one to find even more locals.
      3) Jose Mourino is considered a brilliant coach because he knows when to contain, when to utilize and how to mix and match the egos of players. If a coach says the players are not serious, I believe his/her resignation letter should follow.

  23. As long as DJW is president Hart will not return. 8 defeats sounds bad but remember 3 consecutive games we got bad balls 2 actual goals and 1 excellent penalty shout. I know it’s long gone but we never know if dem calls we’re in our favour, DL would be out favourite coach

  24. We need a good coach,spend your money and get one

  25. Trinidad football is going no where soon it’s easy too blame administrators and no one thinks off the mind set off the youths , football.was our past time where a young man will go train.and learn his skills by himself ,thats in the past,they have no mentors ,no one wants too emulate good players not withstanding that they dont know the senior players names .l played for quite a while for Shell and Civic and we had games too play almost everyday 1st.division 2nd division and Sunday morning and Sunday evening football i.dont see this anymore .I personally think off the scrapping of the leagues SAFL ,SFA ,POSFL,NAFL, CFL , AAfL ,East St.George leagues maybe the pro.league came too.soon,for it seems as though we not ready for that and the standard is very poor hence the reason the stadiums are empty sometimes you dont even.know when is your next game ,so until we get the right people too run things we will see no improvement anytime soon.

    • Football, cricket…no difference

    • My brother, always, always do a root cause analysis. Mine starts like this:
      If USA Universities and Major League Soccer could extract the best from our players, why can’t we?
      If European teams could extract the best of our players, why can’t we?
      Why did John Bostock refuse to return to Trinbago even after stating that we have good players?
      Why De Leon would/could not convince his son to represent us?
      Can anyone convince me that through out Trinidad and Tobago and among our foreign born children, that all, as in every one of our players have the wrong mindset?
      On the other hand, we have one administrator who hand pick an administration, who hand pick a coach, who hand pick a team that you say have the wrong mindset.
      So, even if I start with your thoughts, I end up right back to the admin.

  26. Lawrence did a good job. T&T lost against the best teams in Concacaf but was never disgraced in losing. Says something positive about his game plans and rapport with the players who never gave up in difficult circumstances

  27. Just very disappointing. I repeat again an experience foreign coach is needed for T&T World Cup qualification.

  28. The interesting thing for me is the lack of ‘wins’ over the years.
    Also, what was the w-l-draw ratio during the short lived Figge era if any? He’s the German who famously declared that we were not a serious people.

  29. And include Terry Fenwick as assistant coach cause I don’t think sol will b here

  30. Get rid of the president of the ttfa, and things will go well

  31. All thanks to the great DJW!!! Master genius of the TTFA! #djwout

  32. Make that 8… but a record is a record! Well done team!

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