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Kenwyne heads Warriors roster; Hart keeps shallow player pool

Twenty-nine-year-old Cardiff City forward Kenwyne Jones will make his regional debut for Trinidad and Tobago next month when he leads the “Soca Warriors” into the Caribbean Cup qualifying series in Couva.

Trinidad and Tobago opens its Caribbean Cup tournament against the Dominican Republic from 8.15 pm on Wednesday October 8 in the second game of a double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

Tickets are available at $100 for covered stands and $60 for uncovered stands while fans can purchase a special ticket to see all three games for $260.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones tries to hurdle Jamaica captain Je-Vaughn Watson during a friendly international at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last November. Jones was selected as the TTFA's 2013 Player of the Year. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones tries to hurdle Jamaica captain Je-Vaughn Watson during a friendly international at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last November.
Jones was selected as the TTFA’s 2013 Player of the Year.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

The Caribbean Football Union’s decision to align its competitive matches with the FIFA international calendar means that, for the first time, national associations can select squads without conflict with foreign-based teams.

And Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart will utilise that option as he confirmed, at a press conference today, that he is already assured of eight overseas players in his 20-man squad.

Apart from Jones, Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk), England-based midfielder Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge), Finland-based utility player Joevin Jones (HJK), the North American-based duo of Kevin Molino (Orlando City) and Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps) and the Vietnam-based pair of Hughtun Hector and Daneil Cyrus (both Hanoi T&T) will all represent the Warriors in the qualifying stage.

Jones (J), Mitchell, Hector, Molino and Cyrus all participated in the 2012 Caribbean Cup in which the Warriors finished second to Cuba.

Hart explained that the remainder of his squad will be released next week as the TTFA has appealed to the CFU for permission to change its initial shortlist due to injuries.

The head coach suggested that an inability to work with more local-based players, due to a lack of funding for camps or their unavailability through trials, prompted him to stick with his core group of players.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart gives instructions during a 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup fixture against El Salvador. (Copyright AFP 2014/Rich Schultz)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart gives instructions during a 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup fixture against El Salvador.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Rich Schultz)

“It is no secret that we wanted to have a local group of players in camp and playing international games because that is the only way you can evaluate them,” said Hart. “… In terms of preparation, I have decided to go with a squad that is familiar with what I have been doing since I took over…

“It is either you go in those games blind not knowing how the players would respond internationally or you go with what is familiar. I chose the latter.”

Hart revealed that he included several national under-20 players in his initial CFU shortlist. However, he might be having second thoughts after he watched the likes of Levi Garcia, Jabari Mitchell, Martieon Watson, Nicholas Dillon and Matthew Woo Ling return to secondary schools football rather than seek out more competitive arenas. Garcia and Dillon are both attached to Central FC’s Pro League first teams.

“There are a few (under-20 players) that were on the 30-man (CFU) roster,” said Hart, “I do have some concerns though because some of them have chosen to play school football…

“Both myself and (national under-20 head coach) Derek King mentioned to them that, if you do have aspirations, you should play at the highest level possible. But I cannot make decisions for them; I can only advise.”

Photo: St Anthony's College midfielder Matthew Woo Ling tries to hold off a St Augustine player during SSFL Premier Division action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: St Anthony’s College midfielder Matthew Woo Ling tries to hold off a St Augustine player during SSFL Premier Division action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

For those who do make the final 20-man squad, Hart suggested a rotation policy might mean playing time for his entire squad as a way of dealing with the CFU’s customary scheduling of three matches in five days.  Although it is the same format followed by the national under-17, under-20 and senior women’s teams, the Warriors coach might be unwilling to cross swords with professional clubs on the matter.

“You have to play three games in the FIFA window with a day off in between each game,” said Hart, “and that in itself—I might stand to be corrected here—doesn’t exactly fall in line with FIFA’s medical guidelines.

“We have to be calculating in how we approach these games and our recovery between games.”

Hart pointed to internal problems as well.

Sixteen months into the job, the former Canada head coach admitted he has not been able to put a program in place to widen his player pool due to the TTFA’s financial shortcomings.

“We have not been in a position to run a consistent program to generate any sort of continuity,” he said. “I can only play the hand that was dealt and I think this is the best approach for this qualification round.

“I have submitted that I would like to play on FIFA dates and if the Pro League has a break… But I have no operating budget.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams muses over Mexico's decisive goal in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal. (Copyright Getty Images/AFP/ Mike Zarrilli)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams muses over Mexico’s decisive goal in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
(Copyright Getty Images/AFP/ Mike Zarrilli)

At present, the Warriors players and staff are still owed match fees from their exhibition match against Iran in June while even bonuses due from the 2012 Caribbean Cup have not been paid. But Hart declined comment on any TTFA’s debts.

“Please take that up with (general secretary Sheldon) Phillips and (president Raymond) Tim Kee,” said Hart.

Hart is only the second coach to take Trinidad and Tobago into the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup while the Warriors’ only defeats in 11 international outings came against 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, Iran and Mexico and on penalties to the United Arab Emirates in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

He admitted the job was a tough one, particularly due to off the field issues, but suggested that he is committed to the team’s 2018 World Cup campaign.

“I came in here knowing the circumstances (and) it is probably worse than I thought,” said Hart. “But you cannot build anything from the outside… Players and staff have worked very hard to show we can get our part right and we will try to rectify the other parts as soon as possible.

“Yes (the debt to the players and staff) is an issue. But from a technical standpoint the players have responded on the field and taken their issues off the field with the management.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (second from left) shares a light moment with assistant coach Hutson Charles (far left) and national players (from right to left) Cleon John, Kareem Moses and Curtis Gonzales. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (second from left) shares a light moment with assistant coach Hutson Charles (far left) and national players (from right to left) Cleon John, Kareem Moses and Curtis Gonzales.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Hart called on the media to play its part as well in promoting the local game. He suggested that television crews should stop filming games from the covered stands and shoot from the opposite end, so as to show the spectators who generally flock to the covered areas.

And he urged supporters to support their local players too.

“When you look at the (Caribbean Cup) Under-20 tournament that just finished, the quality of the football was not bad at all,” said Hart. “Personally I was a little disappointed in the (size of the) crowd… But it is just a matter of us continuing to do what we can do and try to get it right on the field. And hopefully if we get it right, the people would return to football.

“But if you look at all (levels) of football right now: colleges, Pro League (and) national team and you look in the stands you have to (tell) yourself there is a problem. And football without spectators is a sweat.”

For the first time since 1996, Trinidad and Tobago will be near full strength at the Caribbean Cup and there is a special incentive for the overall tournament winner who will participate at the 2016 Copa America champions alongside South American giants like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Seon Power (second from left) and midfielder Keyon Edwards (far left) celebrate with their teammates during the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Seon Power (second from left) and midfielder Keyon Edwards (far left) celebrate with their teammates during the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Jones and company will start their journey against the Dominican Republic on October 8.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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66 comments

  1. Most young players in epl, la liga etc play club football where they are exposed to better coaching ,fitness ,regimes nutrition etc hence higher standard of play i think that is d rational behind mr harts statement if done properly it will only improve our fading fball teams

  2. Hart has done a fine job so far. And we certainly hopes he get all the resources that were available to the likes of Leo Beenhakker to see how far he can take this squad.

    • I agree with you. I think that he has more human resources available to him at this stage. I think that we are approaching a golden age in football once again in Trinidad and Tobago. I am very optimistic. It is true that Coach Hart has limited money to buy chips with but the cards that he is holding is almost superior to what Beenhakker held. Compare the young players we have today to the starters of the Soca Warrior team of 2006 by their position and tell me otherwise.

  3. Maro….you are absolutely right about professionalism in this country….it is not a part of our culture and not enough is being done at primary, secondary or tertiary institutions to inductrinate the ethos within the up-coming generations….values like accountability and professional responsibility are unknown quantities until it is too late to be inculcated into the individual’s psyche. The situation such as you’ve described pervades our society…..fines and sanctions mean nothing if there are other clubs willing to ‘look the other way’ in order to get a player to further their aspirations….players don’t realise they are being exploited in a sense. You must do what you can to teach these rudiments to the young talent coming your way.

    • Is there a National Football Coaches Association? Or is it crab in barrel where this is concerned too? Who inculcates the different ethos into coaches when some of them are the ones who allow players to play wherever they want? As I was saying…The Head Coach of the Senior Team has to spell out his terms with everybody. he wants the media to come out on the pitches and not stay in the stands in hot sun or when rain falls. I would like to see him stand in front of that same camera and announce what are his conditions, maybe criteria for a player to be eligible to play for the National Senior team. Bertille said he didn’t want any rastas, Leo said you have to wear a cigarette patch. Coach Hart, you have all the good pieces at your disposal for a successful tournament. I am confident that you will win ALL of your games. Stop playing. Don’t you think that if you give the masses something to believe in, more persons might actually show? I won’t be paying money and taking time to see Messi but the outfit that you choose. Life has not given me apples in this case but lemons, I’ll make lemonade and show up. What will you choose to make?

  4. We have contracts with players, so we could simply fire them. But then they could join another Pro League team in January. Meanwhile, we will be two players short as we cannot register any new players outside of the transfer window. Of course, they will be fined for not attending training and breaching club rules. Apparently, SSFL have a rule that forbids school players from playing for Pro League teams. The real problem is the player. If he feels that he would rather play school football and set his career back, and possibly not be selected for the national teams, then perhaps he simply has the wrong attitude to make it big in professional football here or overseas. I’m damn sure that when Messi was 16 he didn’t want to play school football!

    • Pardon me Mr. Harrison, I’d like to know how many times has the PFL, Club Owners and the SSFL has sat down in a room to rectify this situation. I cannot understand how a league that is run for three months ruins the rest of football in Trinidad and Tobago…. Tobago is out SSFL. maybe teams can probably scout there for some Winchester left wing bloodlines.

      • Spark, perhaps I assume too much knowledge when I comment. Pro League clubs have a set budget to spend on players and signing bonuses. They have until the close of the August transfer window to recruit their squad. Their next opportunity to make changes is in the January transfer window. When you recruit talented players such as Levi Garcia and Nicholas Dillon, you are basically building a team that includes them. We paid these guys signing bonuses. Dillon has been paid since January and Garcia since March. They made use of training with both Terry Fenwick and Zoran Vranes. They went off to the Under 20 camp while still collecting their salaries. Upon leaving the U20 camp they failed to appear at training or contact us concerning school football. On Friday, Central F.C. had to put a 3rd goalkeeper on the bench as we didn’t have enough fit outfield players. Levi would have started in that game and possibly Dillon as well. God forbid, but if we lose another attacker to injury, we will struggle until January. If you want to take it further, if we struggle, we may lose sponsors, if we lose sponsors, we may lose the club a la South End Utd or the struggles at Point Fortin. So, the SSFL has a huge effect on Pro League clubs.
        Regarding the players themselves, it is fairly obvious that training less with less successful coaches and less talented team mates will stifle development. Playing against inferior opposition has the same effect. In the upcoming U20 tournament our lads will be playing against 19 year olds who may be in their 3rd season of professional football. And we prepare ours by letting them play against 14,15,16 year old schoolboys? And people wonder why we don’t succeed? Some SSFL coaches are talented, but I’m sure their first intention is to win, not develop future professionals. There is a difference and they don’t get paid for the latter.
        Regarding your first point, I am heading up a ProLeague committee to meet with SSFL and TTFA to develop a way that we can all work together from next season. I should have begun this in July, but I have been focused elsewhere, so the delay is my bad.

        • Thanks K. Harrison for responding. You can wire me up right here if you need assistance with your meeting. I’ll be happy to help wherever I can.