Trinidad and Tobago national football team captain Jan-Michael Williams has thrown his full support behind the technical staff after being overlooked for next Wednesday’s international friendly against Peru at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Williams has not played competitive football since the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals on December 12 when the “Soca Warriors” lost to an extra time goal by Cuba. And the 28-year-old goalkeeper’s inactivity, prompted by a fall-out with his DIRECTV W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, has cost him his immediate place in the national team.
“We took a decision not to include Jan Michael based only on the fact that he has not been active in matches in recent weeks,” joint national head coach Jamaal Shabazz told the TTFF Media, “and, as a goalkeeper, it’s crucial that the player is active on regular basis. At this point we felt it would be better to go with Marvin Phillip and Cleon John.
“Jan has been the team captain and remains a huge part of our plans and will definitely be considered for upcoming friendlies leading up to the Gold Cup.”
Williams admitted that he was extremely disappointed to be left out of the Trinidad and Tobago 18-man squad but said he accepted the reasons given to him by co-head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles.
“Obviously I’m extremely disappointed but I support the coach,” Williams told Wired868. “If they had picked me, I would have been happy to play but I understand that they are trying to make the selection process more fair and I support it 100 percent. Nobody should be exempted.
“Football is not about the past, it is about the present. And at present I am not playing for a club…
“I’m upset to be missing put on such an important game but I’m happy for the chance that Cleon (John) and Marvin (Phillip) are getting.”
Williams and Phillip, who were teammates for the 2001 Under-17 World Cup, have shared the number one jersey between themselves for the past six years. Williams has 46 full international caps while Phillip has 39. Both men are 28-years-old.
In contrast, the 31-year-old John is uncapped despite being one of Trinidad and Tobago’s top goalkeepers for the past five years with San Juan Jabloteh and then present employer, North East Stars. He will certainly try to make the most of a rare opportunity to impress the national coaches.
Two other players who would hope to make international senior team debuts against Peru are 22-year-old KV Mechelen utility player Sheldon Bateau and 23-year-old Defence Force right winger Jemel Sebro.
Bateau has primarily featured at right back for his Belgian employers.
The Peru friendly represents the first step towards the July 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will be staged in the United States.
Peru is ranked 43rd in the world by FIFA and, although second from bottom in the South American qualifying table, is just four points outside an automatic berth for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. The Peruvians would expect to sharpen their claws against the Warriors, who are ranked 71st by FIFA.
“It’s a game that we are using as a tester,” said Shabazz. “It’s fortunate that Peru are preparing for a must-win World Cup qualifier against Chile, which means they will be bringing their best team. And it gives us a chance to answer questions about our squad and our players as a group and the methods we are using at this stage.
“Our performance in this game is going to tell us the type of work that is necessary and how far we off we might currently be following a lay off from the international stage… It think it’s a very exciting moment for the partnership of the coaching staff and a huge test for our players.”
Key to the Warriors’ immediate future is finding a striker capable of filling the void left by Trinidad and Tobago’s record goal scorer Stern John, who scored 70 times for his country.
Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones is the Warriors’ most high-profile player at present but has scored just seven times in red, black and white gear. Charles and Shabazz will attempt to get the most from the forward whose aerial prowess and physical strength once earned him comparisons with Ivory Coast superstar Didier Drogba.
Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling might be less mobile and intimidating than Jones but his 17 international goals make him Trinidad and Tobago’s ninth highest all-time scorer and he will not be short of confidence if he plays. North East Stars striker Cornell Glen, 32, is Trinidad and Tobago’s most prolific active player with 23 international goals but he is out of favour at present.
Thirty-four-year-old Ipswich Town flanker Carlos Edwards is in the squad, though, and can operate at right back or right wing, which have been two troublesome areas for the Warriors in recent times.
And 30-year-old midfielder Densill Theobald would also lend vital experience to a midfield that is without Vietnam-based Hughtun Hector, injured Connection employee Clyde Leon and the mysterious Keon Daniel, who has not reported to the coaching staff in over two months. Theobald is expected to move from Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA to the Finland Premier League within the coming days.
The only other minor surprise is that central defender Carlyle Mitchell has agreed to cut short his pre-season training with Major League Soccer (MLS) team Vancouver Whitecaps to help out after Seon Power, who is on trials in Singapore, was declared unavailable.
“We know players like Carlos Edwards will not able to go on forever,” said Shabazz, “but we feel games like this on a FIFA date will allow him, Kenwyne Jones and Khaleem Hyland to be present and share some of their experience with upcoming players.
“It’s a meshing and handing over period. People think we should start with a young team but there are steps we have to take to get to 2018.”
Williams hopes to be a part of that future despite his present woes.
The talented custodian said he turned down several offers from rival Pro league clubs already but hopes to finalise a move to Europe soon. Williams told Wired868 that he trains with national goalkeeping coach, Jefferson George, on a daily basis and also does regular gym work to ensure that he is ready for when the chance arises.
“I think something should happen (abroad) within the next month,” said Williams. “Being left out the national team makes me feel even sadder about what happened at Connection because I still feel it could have been resolved. But everything happens for a reason.
“Somebody told me the other day: ‘If your two hands full, you can’t catch anything.’ That made a real impression on me.
“My two hands are empty now. So I’m ready to catch something.”
Williams has accepted an invitation from the national coaches to train with the squad despite being omitted from the match squad.
It will be someone else’s turn to shine against Peru.
Trinidad and Tobago 18-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Cleon John (North East Stars);
Defenders: Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Daneil Cyrus (DIRECTV W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps—Canada), Kareem Moses (North East Stars), Aubrey David (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Densill Theobald, Keyon Edwards, Ataullah Guerra (all Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);
Wingers: Carlos Edwards (Ipswich Town—England), Jemel Sebro (Defence Force), Darryl Roberts (Samsunspor—Turkey), Kevon Carter (Defence Force);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force).
Coaches: Hutson Charles (co-head coach), Jamaal Shabazz (co-head coach), Derek King (assistant coach).