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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 managing director and chief 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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  1. Adam McKell, I definitely agree with you. Thanks for sharing…

  2. I have watched both Pro League as well as School football in recent times. And while the quality of play in the Pro League is high, it is quite a bit higher than the standard of play in the school league.

  3. There is an ethical, moral and professional value being undermined here by full pro or semi-pro playes involved in school football….in the US its one or the other and there are serious sanctions for those who break the rules. I remember when D. Yorke was fully enrolled in Gustine but was not allowed to play as the ‘accommodation’ as made for specific purposes and it would have been ‘unfair’ to artificially enrich one school with an exceptional talent which it did not ‘earn’ through normal channels. Even though the situations are different the principles involved are similar.

  4. Really pleased to see so much support for our T&T born Coach. Let’s hope he will continue to have our support and get the resources he needs to take our football forward. Go Warriors!

  5. Thanks for the heads up Kevin Harrison and Lasana Liburd. These are things that really need to come to light everyone to know. I am just on the outside looking in but I want to see T&T football move forward. As for that young man who took money and is now playing in school. He need to pay your club. Semi-pro players should not be playing school ball at all.

    What do you all think? Also, is there any way for Central to block this from happening? That right there whenever it is resolved should prevent anyone else from doing that sort of thing. Hopefully someone is willing to stop these things from happening.

  6. I think we’re all essentially saying the same thing – and that is 1) improvements is needed in the secondary school football league; 2) the pro league and improved secondary school league can and should play a role in the development of players in TNT; and 3) secondary school players should think carefully about going the pro-route and carefully engage all stakeholders before making that final decision. But we don’t need to disband the secondary school football league and/or force players to not represent their schools.

  7. Our core development of young talent should be through a professional youth league and not the school’s league. SSFL should supplement the Pro and National teams if needs be. Not the other way around.

  8. School football isn’t what it was Carlos. I cover the leagues here and I guarantee it.
    The national football community cannot depend on school football to develop players because the SSFL is about organised recreation for students. I think the SSFL played a key role for us in the past but we have to go past it to stay relevant in world football.
    I like Stefano Monti’s idea about running the Pro League youth competitions at the same time as the SSFL. And separating the student/athletes from the players with ambitions of playing football as a career.

  9. That’s the thing Carlos Lee. Not everyone can make it as a professional player. So I agree that players and parents need to think carefully and, for some, scholarships are the best option for a stable career.
    But what about the others? Dwight Yorke was Levi Garcia’s age when he made his national senior debut, he was Jabari Mitchell’s age when he signed for Aston Villa and he was Matthew Woo Ling’s age when he made his top flight debut in England.
    If these guys want to go pro, more adult football will help their chances.
    It boils down to what their ambitions are I think. But if they get off to a late start, they will really struggle to get into a major league.

  10. Ive read all the posts over again and I have not seen any solution. I did not hear Coach Hart talk about any solution either. So hear’s what, I (Yes me, The Spark) am gonna help fix T&T football in two years time. I’ll start with this spark: My message to all of you and Coach Hart especially, is to watch tapes of a sixteen year old Neymar or Messi and see how far behind a T&T schoolboy player is to them at that age in comparison. T&T lost to the World Cup runners up 3-0 ONLY because they did not execute the plan. Brazil got 7 to the eventual winners. When one keeps doing the same thing and it fails, does one expect to get a different result.

  11. School football is and has been a vital part of the player development program in TNT. Improvements are obviously needed in terms of the quality of coaches in the school league and the need for closer ties with whatever overarching long term football development strategy that the TTFA has in place or is contemplating. The develop afforded by the school football program should be supplemented by pro-league teams through appropriate amateur programs within their organizations. It’s about the holistic development and nurturing our football pipeline, and the pro-league, non-professional leagues, school football league, no

  12. I agree that they should keep their options open. But playing school ball isn’t necessarily helping their development. Is there a cut off age to play school ball?

  13. Prince Borde – both you and I know that the U20 players who are in secondary schools are not 20 years olds. We’re talking about players who are 16-18 yrs old who just happen to be good enough to make the U20 squad. Now the question of whether they’re attending classes and taking advantage of their free education is a totally different question / obviously there needs to be minimum academic eligibility requirements in place to help ensure they are true students and pushing for a good education, rather than just hanging out on school property. Hopefully the Secondary School Football body already have guidelines in place to manage the above. Anyway, as Brent said earlier, these school age footballers should keep their options opened and stay away from signing those low-paying, no benefit contracts in that sub-par pro-league. The handful of players who are good enough to truly pursue a professional football career could chance it, but we all know the risk is very high.

  14. Andre Morrison, Stephen Hart watches football at all levels. And I know that he has held coaches meetings before although I’m not sure how regularly.

  15. Brent Bennett, Hart has scouted players from the Super League too. I don’t think it is a case of whether they are paid to play or not. It is just about playing at a higher standard.
    And some players like Woo Ling were on academy deals, so they did not sign professional contracts.
    The other thing is I understand some players only show up in school during the SSFL season and disappear after that. So there is little educational value.
    Come December, some of them will return to their Pro League teams asking to play. It happened before with players like Alvin Jones. So what is the point then?
    However, Pro League teams don’t have facilities to educate players like the bigger professional clubs abroad.
    So, Shannon Gomez quit Upper Six to sign a professional deal with W Connection. But Jabari Mitchell and Martieon Watson, who are sixth form students, preferred to finish school (or so they say).
    I would have liked if kids could complete school WHILE playing for their clubs.

  16. Carlos Lee are they really going to school or playing football. Are they really getting an education. Are they really going to class? I hope they are. You cannot have a 20 year old in school. And I agree with Aaron Pollard and Lasana Liburd we need either they are playing in colleges or they are playing professionally. If a guy comes over here at 20 to go to school you might as well forget about a pro contract. You are not going to the MLS at 24. If they come over at 17/18 you have a better chance of going pro. Also pro teams overseas would rather them younger. 17/18. We need to get our 16 year old starlet in Europe ASAP. Even if he’s playing on an academy team. I am not over in Trinidad but why are we criticizing the pro league. It’s what it is. Maybe it can get better. At least we have somewhat of a pro league. It’s competitive and it gets our top footballers playing regularly. Not the quality of players need to improve. I keep saying this but to improve Trinidad football the youth football infrastructure needs to improve. Proper club youth football leagues. With qualified referees. Imagine a referee over here in the states will referee a big college match then you will see him in the center of a u14 game. We don’t even get referees at games. That’s the only way football gets better.

  17. Andre, what do you mean “their most experienced players”? These kids don’t go to school. They are recruited to play football and leave when Intercol ends. They are ringers brought in just to win football games. Nicholas Dillon left Central F.C. to play school football last September. He told us that he never attended classes. After Intercol he returned to Central pleading us to take him back and promising he was finished with school football. This July, we extended his contract to 2017, paid him a signing bonus and increased his salary. He went off to the U20 camp and has not reported back. Now he’s playing for Naps again. Where is the professionalism and loyalty? He took our salary while he was representing the U20’s and then disrespected our club. Worse, we cannot replace these players who would both be first team starters. Our Pro League team is now weakened until January. Funny how Naps coach is also a Pro League Head Coach at North East Stars. Perhaps he knew he could never beat Central fairly so he’s trying to weaken our squad to give him an advantage?

  18. I’m happy to see Cyrus is back in that squad

  19. definitely pro league need a lot of improvement…a lot

  20. Firstly we don’t have a pro league. Anybody think that us a pro league more power to you. We more have a semi pro league in my honest opinion. If I were those kids unless you are 100% sure all you want to do is play football avoid the pro league at all costs. If you want to keep you options open then avoid signing that dotish $2k or $3k a month deal as it serves no purpose.

  21. Lasana – the U-20 players who are still in school and also play for pro-league teams, are they allowed to sign pro-league contracts? Meaning are they considered to be professional players? I hope not, since it will surely affect their ability to gain scholarships to attend US colleges to further their education and soccer development. I’m one who disagree with coach Hart and King. They’re looking at things from a selfish and limited point of view. The U20 players who are still finishing up their education should actually be encouraged to play for their schools and encouraged to make full use of their education.

  22. I think it should be up to the national team coach to say no school ball due to the fact we have the final round coming up and to prevent injuries.

    I can also see the other side that these schools want their most experienced players to give their team the advantage too. It would keep the young men fitness up and keep them sharp.

    I can see where bith side are coming from.

    Hi Lasana Liburd, do you know if the National team Coach (Hart & Co.) take a look at the structure of T&T football? While doing taking a look the national team coaches can make suggestions to make changes ti help improve

  23. I totally agree with Lasana Liburd. In fact I will go 1 step further…20 year olds not supposed to be playing no secondary school football in the first place. It is counter productive to football development. These national players playing a system and position with the national team then playing a different system and position at school level. They are not mature enough to switch modes like that. They are young and their football intelligence is still developing. I am at Trinity East, there are boys who play with the Premiership team that also play with the U14 and U16 teams. When they play in the lower divisions they actually look terrible because their egos. They want to do all sorts of madness in the lower divisions.

  24. Ett de dö get rid of this Hockey Coach thé School football is much better Dan Pro League

  25. If you are on a ProLeague first team, then most likely you are beyond the level of SSFL. These guys should be striving to go to the next level through the ProLeague clubs, which involves foreign contracts. Opportunities to play will come, going back to SSFL (which is low quality) will not take them anywhere. I think this is Coach Hart and Coach King concern here.
    One more season in the school’s league makes them, one season more proficient as a school footballer.
    One season with a pro team makes them, one more season proficient as a pro footballer. Travis Joseph

  26. Travis Joseph, if you drop your standards for four months, your game will suffer. It is reversible of course. But there is just over a month between the end of the SSFL and the CONCACAF U-20 tournament, so I understand the coaches’ concerns.
    Levi Garcia and Nicholas Dillon are both first team players and Garcia is competing for a starting place.
    But which is better: 30 minutes against guys who are bigger, stronger, smarter and (possible) faster than you?
    Or 90 minutes against 15 and 16 year old boys who have played organised football for just two or three years and will never play competitively after school?

  27. Maybe but currently that is not in place and the next best thing at the moment for the players is school ball

  28. Youth pro League need to start in September at the same time with the pro league …so professional team can develop own players,.everybody else they can play football school with no problem

    • Stefano, you know that Pro League clubs want a season long youth league. The reason that it doesn’t exist is that the boys would rather play school football. This is where we must embrace SSFL and allow the kids 3 months of school football. If the player is talented enough, he should be offered a pro contract. If not, play SSFL until xmas and return to the Youth League in Jan. But, there should be a maximum age of 17 in SSFL and once a player signs professional, he cannot play school football, but can take classes.
      But in principal, Stefano, I know that in Italy, as in England we would have kids from 8 or 9 in the professional system. As you will agree, from 8-16 is the most important developmental period and we woefully under invest in this area in T&T. But school football has too much attraction for teenagers for us to adopt this system at the moment.

  29. I try not to get involved in these topics, but if these players go to their respectful clubs how much playing time will they get? Dillion will not start in front of Qian, Nelly or Plaza for central, jabari will not play for connection and neither will Matthew. Saw connection played a couple of games and Shannon, akim or Maurice was not in the starting line up. Not taking away anything from any of those players but its a reality there are guys older and better in their position. So playing school ball is to continue their development by simply getting to play. The league is from September to December that’s 4 months it may not make them any better as you are saying but it surely will not make them any shitier and at least they will be happy playing. If any of you ever played, the worse thing in life as a player is to sit on the bench and watch.

    • Actually, it does make them “shittier”. Once you let your standards drop and develop bad habits, it takes time to repair the damage, meanwhile, you are not improving. I would guess that 4 months of school football for a 18 year old would probably be enough to take you from being a National team starter to being a squad player, if that. It’s not just the talent, but discipline and professionalism. Dillon may not have started ahead of Qian or Quintero, but if he worked hard he could force his way through. This is important character building for his career. And how can you say it’s not better to train with and learn from players like Plaza instead of a spotty 14 year old who prefers cricket, wants to study to be an accountant and only plays football to attract girls?

  30. Just went to the pro league game…that was painful to watch. General development of Trinidad football needs serious help

  31. San Juan Jabloteh has apparently let Josiah Trimmingham and Brent Sam play school football for the reason you mentioned. Not the others though.
    I will do something more conclusive on that soon.

  32. If the club decides the player may not be as active early on in the season and allows the player in the school league, or help him build more fitness or something along those lines I think it’s okay. Not the best display of professionalism though.

  33. Yeah. Dunno what to say about that anymore. Priorities…

  34. A a…they pay the phone bill ? Hooray !

  35. School teams my bad. That’s experience you can’t buy.

  36. The clubs generally aren’t happy to lose their players to school leagues. I’ve spoken to two club directors on that already.
    You can get the tickets from the TTFA. 623-9500

  37. Hart is suggesting that the Pro League is a higher quality than the SSFL. I humbly disagree.

  38. I do not think people will go watch ProLeague football for $1 or even if it is free right now.
    I can agree with Coach Hart and Coach King point on the U-20 players. These guys should not play in the SSFL. Unless, the club they are attached to has a specific objective for them to play the SSFL games.

  39. Coach Hart has a tough, tough job on his hands.
    Where do we purchase tickets ? Lasana Liburd
    Hope that Hector does make the tournament, hopefully he is better now than when he left !

  40. They still calling back K Jones…… Jah

  41. The club didn’t let them go right? Cause national team call up is what its about.

  42. Why are they going back and play school ball?

  43. I agree with what coach hart is saying but to a point. I hope that this wasn’t any mirror or smoke screen to divert attention from himself in case the team doesn’t do well. Out of all the coaches, Coach Hart has all of the fire power at his disposal. He can choose from the secondary schools, he can choose from the pro league, he can choose from youth teams, heck he can choose a keeper from beach soccer if he wants to. I think that adding leston, attaulah, Kevin and perhaps a free kick person to the u20 team would run through this stage comfortably. Minister of Importance could sit this one out.

  44. Questions- is it easier to get a scholarship to a college to play soccer from playing in the ssfl or does the pro league offer any? How many tertiary level institutions offer sports scholarships inTrinidad and Tobago?

    • Once you have a professional contract, you cannot gain a football (soccer) scholarship in the USA. However, you can be registered and play in the Pro League without a professional contract. Therefore, anyone wanting to go the scholarship route can do so. Nathaniel Garcia being an example. Central have already achieved several scholarships for players. Both Brent Sancho and Kevin Jeffrey started their career with US scholarships, so are keen to get players down that route, which is also why we brought home George Romano.