On the last occasion that the “Soca Warriors” returned from Jamaica undefeated, after a 2-2 draw in March 2008, then Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special advisor Jack Warner held a press conference to honour the achievement under then coach Francisco Maturana.
Maybe present Warrior coach Stephen Hart might have a street in San Fernando named after him.
That was a joke. But there was nothing light-hearted about the friendly international result in Montego Bay last night as Trinidad and Tobago edged the “Reggae Boyz” 1-0 for its first win in Jamaica for 60 years.
Trinidad and Tobago last defeated Jamaica on enemy territory on 11 August 1953 when the visitors won 1-0 at Sabina Park.
Or, to put it another way, Hart was not born yet, Eric Williams was still three years away from forming the PNM and Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica were both British colonies.
Since that August day in 1953, Trinidad and Tobago played Jamaica 10 times on enemy territory but only managed two draws to go with 8 defeats.
Finland-based midfielder Ataullah Guerra might remember last night’s triumph for an entirely different reason as the former John John resident scored his third goal for Trinidad and Tobago just a day after his 26th birthday.
Hart told the TTFA Media, after the final whistle, that the tackling in Montego Bay was anything but friendly.
Slovan Bratislava winger Lester Peltier was kicked off the ball by Jamaica and FC Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson without censor by the Panamanian referee John Patti while Guerra and 19-year-old Central FC forward Rundell Winchester also felt the brunt of some full blooded tackles.
“I thought (the referee) could have calmed some of the tackling,” said Hart. “Some of those tackles were nowhere near what a friendly should be.
“Today was a very competitive game; it just wasn’t a competition.”
Guerra put the Warriors ahead in the fifth minute when he clipped his effort off the underside of the bar after Jamaica goalkeeper Richard McCallum spilled an effort from Trinidad and Tobago captain and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones.
The Warriors should have doubled their lead but Winchester wastefully headed wide from six yards after a brilliant run down the right flank by Peltier. Peltier and Winchester played on either side of Jones in a 4-3-3 system, which was used for the first time by Hart.
The Boyz came roaring back though.
Watson volleyed wide from a right side cross when it seemed easier to score while Warriors defender Daneil Cyrus cleared off his goalline in the second half to deny 17-year-old Jamaican striker Michael Seaton.
Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams also made several crucial interventions from corner kicks as the Warriors held on for a famous triumph.
“We played an exceptional first half (and) created a lot of chances,” said Hart. “Okay we had some panic situations in the second half; but they didn’t score.
“We came away with the victory away from home and you’ve got to give the players credit for that.”
The game was not televised, even in Jamaica. However, there is no question about the ambition of the host team.
At present, the Jamaican team is led by German coach Winfried Schafer who led Cameroon to the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations crown. Schafer took over the Boyz job in July and, despite a 2-0 loss away to the United States, he managed a goalless draw away to Panama and home ties against Costa Rica and Honduras.
Yesterday’s match against the Warriors should have been Schafer’s best chance for a win so far and, despite introducing a stream of new faces, the Boyz coach retained seven players from his last World Cup qualifying game while there were also seven United States-based professionals in the host team.
Hart experimented too.
Winchester and 23-year-old Columbus Crew midfielder Kevan George made their first international starts while DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus played in his preferred central defensive role for the first time under the present coach.
The Trinidad and Tobago back four played together for the first time while Defence Force utility player Curtis Gonzales made his first appearance for Hart as a substitute.
Trinidad and Tobago had just 17 available players after Philadelphia Union midfielder Keon Daniel failed to show up and did not offer a reason for his absence.
“As for Keon (goes), I am more concerned with those that made the commitment and are here,” Hart told Wired868, before the match.
Point Fortin Civic goalkeeper Marvin Phillip also did not make the trip after suffering a cut to his foot in a freak accident at home and he was replaced by North East Stars custodian Cleon John.
The Warriors who did travel to Montego Bay certainly made themselves at home yesterday as the Warriors ground out its first post-Independence triumph in Jamaica.
Guerra and company will try to make it two wins from two on Tuesday November 19 when the Warriors host Jamaica from 8 pm in the return leg at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
The Warriors will be without right back Justin Hoyte and defender Sheldon Bateau who were allowed to return to their respective clubs early in England and Belgium respectively.
However, North East Stars striker Trevin Caesar will join the Warriors in camp tomorrow as well as Ipswich Town winger Carlos Edwards and Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall.
The upcoming friendly has been billed as an appreciation match for the retired Birchall and Edwards, although the latter player insisted that he will remain available for selection for the foreseeable future.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 21.Jan-Michael Williams, 3.Justin Hoyte (16.Curtis Gonzales 59), 12.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 2.Aubrey David; 5.Kevan George, 14.Andre Boucaud, 10.Ataulla Guerra (8.Joevin Jones 66); 11.Lester Peltier (18.Densill Theobald 85), 9. Kenwyne Jones, 13.Rundell Winchester (6.Radanfah Abu Bakr 90).
Unused substitutes: 1.Cleon John, 19.Carlyle Mitchell.
Coach: Stephen Hart
Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Ataullah Guerra 5), Jamaica 0 at Montego Bay