Trinidad and Tobago national senior women’s team Marlon Charles was officially sacked today by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), just one month before the inaugural 2014 Women’s Caribbean Cup tournament, which will be staged in Trinidad between August 19 and 26.
The 58-year-old Charles, according to a TTFA release, will be replaced by 52-year-old United States-born coach Randy Waldrum, who is the present coach of US National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team Houston Dash, a two-time NCAA winner with the Notre Dame women’s team and a former Trinidad and Tobago national under-17 coach.
The release, which was authorised by general secretary Sheldon Phillips, might come as a surprise to Charles, since he was due to meet TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, technical development committee chairman Richard Quan Chan and Phillips at a meeting from 4.30 pm tomorrow at the local football headquarters.
Phillips confirmed to Wired868 that the TTFA would discuss various issues with Charles, who offered his resignation to Quan Chan last Friday and has not led the team since. National men’s coach Stephen Hart trained the women on Monday evening and today and is likely to be asked to do so again on Friday.
“The meeting tomorrow will iron everything out,” Phillips told Wired868. “We don’t have a definitive reason as to why (Charles) left… Part of the problem is you hear information second-hand.
“We want to have everyone in one room to hear exactly what the problem is.”
Phillips refused to confirm, then, that Waldrum was already retained as head coach.
Exactly one hour after the general secretary spoke to Wired868, the TTFA issued a release that suggested Charles had been axed due to a player uprising against him.
“After one month of program review, concerns raised by players about the direction of the coaching and program,” stated the TTFA release, “and under the recommendations of a newly installed Technical Development Committee Chairman, the TTFA has decided to relieve Marlon Charles of his present position and install former US U-23 and Notre Dame Coach, Randy Waldrum, as the head coach for the senior women’s team.”
Ironically, Charles’ cited a perceived lack of courtesy and respect from the local football body as his reason for quitting in the first place.
Charles has been a national women’s coach for the past 19 years and spent much of that time as assistant to Jamaal Shabazz and Norwegian Even Pellerud while he also worked under Waldrum when during an unsuccessful Under-17 CONCACAF qualifying campaign in 2008.
Charles insisted that he had no problem with serving as deputy again; but claimed he only found out about the team’s proposed Houston camp through the media, just over a week ago. He said it was only he voiced his concern about this that he was told about Waldrum’s pending appointment.
Phillips countered that Charles was always kept in the loop.
“Marlon has been informed every step of the way,” said Phillips “He was informed about the camp. And this was after we had preliminary discussions with him to tell him about our change of direction with coaching…
“He said he had no problem working with Randy as an assistant.”
But Charles insisted that Phillips was not being truthful and suggested that the TTFA release further confirmed his concerns about what was happening.
“I am happy with the stance I took and I stand firm on my decision,” said Charles, who is a school teacher at the Chaguanas South Secondary. “The first time I met with Sheldon (earlier this year), I asked ‘whatever decision you are going to make on technical matters related to the team, to let me know.’ But they never let me know what was happening and I did not know about the camp until I saw it in the papers.
“So I stood on principle. I am calm about my decision.”
Phillips did not say why he decided to tell the public that the women’s team did not want to be coached by Charles.
Some players, who spoke to Wired868 anonymously, said they were anxious to see an improvement in the national programme since the senior women’s team now has its best chance of advancing to a World Cup finals since Canada’s role as host opened up an additional qualifying spot.
They felt a more experienced coach could be a boon although it was far from unanimous that the team could not qualify under Charles.
Charles refused to be drawn on his employer’s claim that he was not wanted by his squad. However, he hinted that the players might be more interested in benefits like training camps and international practice games, which tends to happen when a foreign coach is in charge as opposed to a local one.
“I know these players for a long time and because of the struggles within the women’s set up there will always be issues,” said Charles. “I just want to wish the players and the team all the best for the tournament.
“Once they think about the team and not egos I know they will do very well.”
The coaching staff of the national women’s teams has not received a monthly stipend since former special advisor Jack Warner quit in 2010 while the coaches do not receive match fees for international games either. Instead, they were promised stipends of $160 (US$25) per day during competitions, which they have not received either.
Former TTFA technical director Anton Corneal revealed that the national under-20 women were forced to stay in their hotel on off days during CONCACAF competition, earlier this year, due to a lack of funds and looked on as players from opposing teams left to shop or go on tours.
The senior men’s “Soca Warriors” also did not receive a per diem during their week-long South America tour last week.
Phillips claimed, though, that Waldrum has agreed to work for the TTFA for free.
“Because of the funding issues, (Waldrum) decided he would come in and lead the team throughout the CFU tournament gratis,” said Phillips. “He sees this as an opportunity or challenge to guide the first Caribbean team into the World Cup and his relationship with college coaches should make it easier for him to get players.
“He has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience and the players who played for him very much love him as a coach and a person. I think he has very similar dynamics to Stephen Hart.”
Waldrum will now lead the national women into international friendlies against Venezuela on July 6 and 8 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from 6 pm and 6.30 pm respectively.
Charles agreed with the TTFA’s warm assessment of Waldrum, who was initially brought to Trinidad by Phillips’ father and ex-TTFA technical director Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips.
“I worked with him already and he is a good person and he can coach,” said Charles. “I have no problem with that; but it is the way things are done. That is what is really hurting me.
“I grew up under certain core values and I just cannot accept people treating me like this.”