The pride, then the fall: from Fenwick’s World Cup champagne dreams to hops and channa

The Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign continues on Saturday without any involvement from Trinidad and Tobago—unless you count Canada’s substitute goalkeeper Dayne St Clair, who chose to represent the land of his birth soon after he popped up on the radar of Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick in 2020.

St Clair, who kept a clean sheet in Canada’s 7-0 win over Aruba last weekend, is unlikely to have any regrets. Maybe he will be joined by former national youth team defender Luke Singh, who also got a Canada invite soon after Fenwick made him a person of interest.

Photo: Goalkeeper Dayne St Clair trains with the Canada national team in June 2021.
St Clair, who has Trinbago parentage, was on coach Terry Fenwick’s radar but will seek glory with the land of his birth instead.
(Copyright Canada Soccer Association)

Fenwick targeted over a dozen players of Trinidad and Tobago descent to shore up his team. None appeared—either unable to get passports, simply ineligible, or disinterested.

(Watford FC midfielder Daniel Phillips debuted under the Englishman but had indicated his interest since Dennis Lawrence was in charge.)

But did Fenwick need them to advance from Group F? After all, his predecessors did not have access to those players either and Fenwick never saw that as a legitimate excuse.

The Englishman still had the core players who were denied a Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal spot by Panama on penalty kicks in 2015. Yet he was eliminated with a game to spare in a group that comprised: Guyana (ranked 165), Puerto Rico (ranged 178), The Bahamas (ranked 201), and St Kitts and Nevis (ranked 135).

“Despite all the divisions we’ve got in Trinidad and Tobago football—lack of finances, lack of support—the boys have dug in deep,” said Fenwick, after Trinidad and Tobago were eliminated within four matches, “and you can’t argue: four games away from home, four games without defeat.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Daniel Phillips (left) tries to hold off The Bahamas midfielder Logan Russell during 2022 World Cup qualifying action in Nassau on 5 June 2021.
(via TTFA Media)

Fenwick earned a reputation for being blunt when it came to discussing Trinidad and Tobago football.

He once moaned that World Cup 2006 coach Leo Beenhakker ‘played with six defenders’—in reference to his retreating flankers. Stephen Hart, who took the Soca Warriors to consecutive Gold Cup quarterfinals in 2013 and 2015, was criticised for lacking dynamism, using a ‘central defender’, Kevan George, in midfield and persevering with Kenwyne Jones upfront. (Jones managed 23 international goals from 90 appearances over the course of his national career.)

While he derided ex-World Cup hero Dennis Lawrence as ‘clueless’ and said he embarrassed the country by sharing the field with 209th ranked Anguilla. Fenwick refused to count Trinidad and Tobago’s 15-0 win over the minnows under Lawrence.

Yet if Fenwick’s troops were even half as ruthless as Lawrence’s team against also-rans, the Warriors would still be in the World Cup qualifiers.

Fifa coaching instructor Anton Corneal, who was a technical staff member on three of the four Trinidad and Tobago teams to ever qualify for a World Cup, pointed to the fear and tactical incoherence of Fenwick’s team.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Terry Fenwick’s shadows his team from the sidelines during their 2-0 win over St Kitts and Nevis in Santo Domingo on 8 June 2021.
(via TTFA Media)

The Englishman spoke of ‘passion and intensity’ at press conferences. In reality, his Soca Warriors were often flat and insipid, while his decision to welcome Singh into his squad after he spent half of the Fifa match window training with Canada smacked of desperation.

Fenwick boasted about being a disciplinarian when Hart struggled, at one point, to tame Kevin Molino’s love for nightlife. Yet, he was silent when, in the middle of an impromptu disciplinary meeting, 18-year-old rookie Gary Griffith III whipped out his phone to record assistant coach Kelvin Jack for his father and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.

Jack only felt compelled to address the matter of Griffith III’s indiscipline in the first place because his head coach had lost his nerve.

Incidentally, Griffith III is the only local-based player who is not quarantining with the Warriors at the TTFA’s far from illustrious Home of Football facility at present. He flew from the team’s base in Santo Domingo to Miami instead, and probably had something far more appetising than the hops and channa that his teammates had for dinner yesterday.

Photo: Dinner is served for Trinidad and Tobago football players in quarantine at the TTFA Home of Football on 9 June 2021.

Not quite the champagne dreams that Fenwick sold Trinidad and Tobago.

At daybreak on Wednesday, El Salvador, Canada, Curaçao, Panama, Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis were left standing and will fight for places alongside Concacaf bigwigs: Mexico, United States, Jamaica, and Honduras.

Canada played all their games away from home due to the pandemic, Haiti are under a normalisation committee, Curaçao coach Guus Hiddink missed half the campaign with Covid-19, Panama have a shallow player pool, El Salvador are a team in transition, and St Kitts and Nevis played half the campaign without their star playmaker Romaine Sawyers.

Yet they did enough on the field to survive. The Soca Warriors did not.

“That’s four games away from home,” said an unblinking Fenwick, who tried to mark his own report card. “Two victories, two draws.”

He will be remembered as the coach who started five defenders against the Bahamas, whose most successful players distinguish themselves in beach soccer—yet wanted to lecture Beenhakker on how to play attacking football.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick is introduced to the media at the National Cycling Centre, Couva on 6 January 2020.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/TTFA Media)

Fenwick started his career as Trinidad and Tobago head coach with a joint national record 7-0 defeat away to the United States in a ‘friendly’ outing on 31 January 2021. It was the type of caning that felt impossible to live down at the time.

Ironically, Fenwick went on to top that.

Editor’s Note: Wired868 will do a comprehensive overview of Trinidad and Tobago’s failed Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, starting from 20 June 2021.


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