Derek King won his first Pro League title as head coach at just 29 years of age, which made him the youngest success story in Trinidad and Tobago’s domestic football history.
King is one of only two coaches to win the Pro League title for two different clubs (Joe Public and North East Stars)—along with Terry Fenwick (San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC)—and the only one to scoop up a Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) crown for good measure too at FC Santa Rosa.
So King, who is also the last coach to win an international trophy for the Soca Warriors which he did at the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup, follows Angus Eve, Terry Fenwick and Ross Russell in Wired868’s Pro League All-Star series.
Wired868: Tell us about your favourite season as a club coach?
King: I think that would be the 2009 season with Joe Public [when I won my first title in my first full season as head coach]. I started my job close to the end of the previous season when they let go coach [Keith] Griffith and fired several players—so it really wasn’t a good ending to the season.
I don’t think our management team believed that we would do so well because I was an inexperienced coach and the youngest to coach in the Pro League. That year, our first final was against Defence Force and we lost in the last minute to an easy goal. It was heartbreaking and that was the turning point. The guys realised that we could do it.
We had a really young squad with some players who hadn’t even played at Pro League level before like Micah Lewis, Kareem Young and Keion Goodridge. We brought in Gorean Highley, who everyone thought wouldn’t last the whole season because of disciplinary problems.
That same year the [Pro League] banned eight of our players for five games after [a brawl] at the Petrotrin ground in Palo Seco—but everything just brought our guys closer together.
I remember we would go to the beach and play cricket or have a day when the boys would cook for everyone. Those are things I brought in to the club and there was a real togetherness.
I think Kerry [Baptiste] scored about 50 goals for us that season (with 35 goals in the league). When Kerry came [to Public], we had him as a winger but I remember we played a few games in pre-season and we weren’t getting any goals. So I spoke to him and said we are missing a goal scorer and he said: “Coach man, no problem. Anywhere the team wants me to play, I will play.”
Okay, so between Public and Stars, which were your best XI players?
Goalkeeper: Alejandro Figueroa (Joe Public)
He was a Colombian and had already been in the league for a while at W Connection. He brought leadership and he was outstanding with his feet. We had a bonus for shut-outs and that motivated him too. He worked hard and always wanted to be number one and his communication with his backline was outstanding.
I also worked with Marvin [Phillip] who was really good but I would go with Figueroa.
Right back: Seon Power (Joe Public)
Seon was a workhorse. He was great with his head and he could read the game. He played right back but I’d use him at centre back or left back too. He was very athletic and I used to say he was our Cafu going forward as he was a good passer of the ball. We were sure on set pieces that we would get goals with him.
Central defender: Yohance Marshall (North East Stars)
He wasn’t the fastest but then he wasn’t the youngest when I worked with him. He brought good leadership qualities. He was very professional when it came to training. He never missed a day and would always stay back for extra work.
He was good at reading the game, very good in the air and very good from set pieces. I think he will go on to be a good coach.
Central defender: Carlyle Mitchell (Joe Public)
He was a striker at Caledonia and when he came [and saw] the players we had on top, he offered to play centre back and he did well in a practice game. So I played him at centre back with the professional team and as a striker with the reserve team, since he was young enough to play both.
He is an all-round footballer and very good with his head. He and Seon scored a lot from set plays.
Left back: Jameel Neptune (North East Stars)
It was a close fight between Jameel and Keion Goodridge for this spot. But I’d pick Jameel because of what he would bring to the team going forward.
He was not one of the best technically but he was a fighter. You were sure to get 100 from him every game. He wasn’t the best defensively because he preferred to go forward but he always contributed and he would play anywhere for the team.
Holding midfielder: Densill Theobald (North East Stars)
Densill was part of my old brigade at Stars. I played with him and we already had a good relationship. He was smooth, brought excellent experience and had a good vision of the game. He wasn’t the fastest but he always knew when and how to show for the ball and never, ever got caught in possession.
He would keep it simple, work hard and would be the last to leave after training. It was a close call for that spot with Kevon Goddard who is also a player I admire a lot. I call Goddard my ‘pitbull’. He would also get the job done. But I would go with Densill.
Midfielder: Trent Noel (Joe Public)
Trent brought calmness on the park. He could pass the ball and read the game. Again not the quickest but his tactical awareness and first touch were awesome—he always knew what his next play was and would never get caught on the ball.
And on dead ball situations, the keeper would have to make a brilliant save or he would score. He was our ‘Rolls Royce’ in midfield. Smooth, calm and collective.
Midfielder: Yu Hoshide (Joe Public)
He was the unknown. (Laughs). He was really professional, his movement off the ball was outstanding and he was tactically sound. He was one of the best passers on the team and also a free kick specialist. Teams feared us on set pieces because we had Kerry [Baptiste], Trent and him who could all kick them.
He was the first Japanese to play in the Pro League. He was playing in the US lower divisions and saw info about the club on the internet and got on to us and said he was willing to pay his own way to come for a trial. The rest was history.
Right wing: Akeem ‘Froggy’ Garcia (North East Stars)
I’d worked with him before at the National Under-20 level and brought him to North East. Technically, he is not one of the best but he is excellent down either flank. He knows when to go, when to stay, when to combine with midfield and he can get goals.
He works very hard and is always a threat. He could also play on either flank or as a 10 or 9—these are guys you always want in your squad. He was very direct.
Left wing: Hayden Tinto (Joe Public)
That 2009 season was Tinto’s breakaway year—he was outstanding! He brought a certain flair with his step-overs and his first touch was outstanding. You could hit that ball into him at any speed and be sure he could take it.
He was never a player to score many goals but that season he was on a high and he got a few. People would come just to see him play football and with the players he had around him, it got the most out of him that season. He was outstanding.
Forward: Kerry Baptiste (Joe Public)
Kerry was just a natural goal scorer. He was similar to Ian Rush in that he was always there where he would have to be. Nothing flashy; he was a sensible player and he would trick defenders to get into the right space before they did.
He always played within his strengths and would be just alert for his chance. He was an outstanding finisher and he was the captain of my team.
Wired868: And who were the three most dangerous players you faced as a Pro League coach?
King: First, let me just say the other players who came close to my XI. We had: Elton John, Andre Toussaint, Kishun Seecharan, Julius James, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Keston George…
Wired868: That’s cheating! But okay, tell us about the players who gave you nightmares now…
Strike partnership: Devorn Jorsling and Richard Roy (Defence Force)
In the 2009 season, Jorsling would hold the ball up well while Roy, who was faster and more direct, would compliment him and was like lightening down the channels. They were like Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke—when you tried to watch one, the other would hurt you!
They gave the whole league trouble that year and Jorsling scored in practically every game. And if he didn’t score, then Roy scored two!
Forward: Marcus Joseph (W Connection)
I think he is one of the top local goal scorers. I coached him and he is a guy who doesn’t really play to instructions. I think W left him to play as the out and out striker and allowed him to just let him do what he wanted.
It is hard to plan for him. He would pop up in midfield or just about anywhere on the field; and if you give him any space he would hurt you!
He could shoot from any distance. I think we would all love to see him do that for the National Senior Team and only time will tell. He still has maybe a few years left.
Midfielder: Joevin Jones (W Connection)
We always had a fight with him. He was young in those days but you could tell he would go on to great things.
He was always capable of doing something special and he has a good footballing brain. He was quality from day one.
And the most memorable performance from one of your players?
King: This is a tough one. But I would go with Yuh Hoshide’s debut at the Marvin Lee Stadium—I think it was against Caledonia. He had been training with us for about two weeks and had done an interview in the local media.
That day the Marvin Lee [Stadium] was full with people who wanted to see him. Those were the days when crowds would come out to watch football. If you reached late, you had to park past the bus route or in Macoya because all the streets around the ground would be full!
The fans were singing: bring on the Japanese! And they were clapping for him every time he got up to warm up. (Laughs). We brought him for about 15 minutes and with his first touch, he received the ball and made a through ball forward for Tinto and we almost got a goal. The crowd went crazy!
Editor’s Note: Wired868 will publish its fifth all-star selection on Wednesday 27 May when we speak to Morvant Caledonia AIA technical director Jamaal Shabazz.