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Shape up! Hart challenges new Warrior recruits to lift standards

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart admitted to concern about the physical condition of his current squad and challenged his recruits to improve their conditioning to break into his CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying squads.

Hart named 10 uncapped players for the Warriors’ friendly international against Panama on Friday from 7 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Eighteen members of his 22-man squad earn their living in the local Pro League competition.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Johan Peltier (right) is one of 10 uncapped players in the Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Panama on Friday March 27. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Johan Peltier (right) is one of 10 uncapped players in the Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Panama on Friday March 27.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

And Hart, who steered the Warriors to the 2013 Gold Cup quarterfinals, revealed that his players were not physically up to scratch just yet despite generally being in mid-season with their clubs.

“(Their fitness) needs to be up to international standards,” Hart told Wired868. “In a one game situation, we might get away with it. But if we were in a tournament situation or if we had to play another game on the Tuesday after the Friday (match against Panama)?

“I would be very worried.”

The Warriors’ new fitness trainer Tobias Ottley, who is a SPORTT Company employee, may have a vital role in lifting the physical standard of a select group of Pro League players.

“Tobias Ottley came in with us today and this is his camp to observe the players individually and design a program for them,” said Hart. “So they will be monitored. They have to follow the program (designed for them) and they will be tested on an individual basis…”

The Warriors played a scrimmage game amongst themselves this evening at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain at a lively tempo. Teenagers Shannon Gomez and Akeem Garcia looked particularly spritely while the more experienced players like Khaleem Hyland, Ataulla Guerra and Kevin Molino bossed the midfield.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Willis Plaza (centre) blasts towards goal during training while teammates Jamal Jack (left) and Neveal Hackshaw look on. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Willis Plaza (centre) blasts towards goal during training while teammates Jamal Jack (left) and Neveal Hackshaw look on.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

Strikers Marcus Joseph and Willis Plaza exhibited good finishing form at either end while Mekeil Williams and newcomer Dwane James, Molino’s elder brother, acquitted themselves well in central defence and central midfield respectively.

However, there were than a few individual errors as players tried to impose themselves on the proceedings.

Hart was not overly concerned as he explained that his new recruits were still coming to terms with the Warriors’ method of play and the movement of their teammates.

“Everybody is extremely eager to please and at times the football is not simple enough,” said Hart. “They are trying to catch my eye and I have to say to them the best way to catch my eye is to play simple, efficient football. But that is a good problem (for me) to have.

“Some of the things we are asking them to do, they are struggling in terms of familiarising them (with) what is their (positional) starting points, when to move, when to ask for the ball…”

The head coach is confident his players will improve as they get closer to Friday’s outing.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (centre) makes a point while midfielders Ataulla Guerra (right) and Khaleem Hyland look on during practice. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (centre) makes a point while midfielders Ataulla Guerra (right) and Khaleem Hyland look on during practice.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“It is only the third session and I think they are suffering because there are so many (players) of good quality (here),” he said, “and we are making such demands of them in terms of not giving away space (and) they are struggling to play quicker. But that’s normal until they find their legs and get accustomed to each other.

“They are not accustomed to the movement of the players around them and what the players are trying to do… We have to keep plugging away at that. It is not that they can’t do it. It is just the timing of it…

“I think the (closer) we get to the game, their possession should improve and our final pass should get better.”

Friday’s outing against Panama is likely to be the Warriors’ only international game until June. Hart intends to provide a good showing despite leaving out most of his top overseas-based players to face CONCACAF’s fourth best football nation, who will be at full-strength.

Hart is unbeaten in Trinidad and Tobago since taking over the post in mid-2013. Thus far, he has recorded wins over Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia and the Dominican Republic as well as a draw against New Zealand on home soul.

The Central American should present a significantly stiffer challenge but Hart was defiant.

Photo: Teenaged Trinidad and Tobago debutantes Akeem Garcia (right) and Shannon Garcia square off during Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team training yesterday evening at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: Teenaged Trinidad and Tobago debutantes Akeem Garcia (right) and Shannon Garcia square off during Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team training yesterday evening at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

“You don’t go into the game thinking if we get this result (it will be nice),” he said. “I want to win the game and, more importantly, I want to play in a certain manner and try to win the game.

“We are playing at home against a top team and I think this is the ideal opportunity for players to fight and push themselves into a position where they can be selected for the Gold Cup. Because I think there are a number of positions that are open for selection.”

It is up to the new Warriors to rise to the challenge.

The uncapped Warriors: Aikim Andrews, Shannon Gomez, Akeem Garcia, Jomal Williams (all W Connection), Akeem Benjamin, Uriah Bentick (both Central FC), Dwane James, Neveal Hackshaw (both North East Stars), Tyrone Charles and Johan Peltier (both San Juan Jabloteh).

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino (right) flicks his third goal past Dominican Republic goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying round. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino (right) flicks his third goal past Dominican Republic goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying round.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago 22-man squad:

Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic);

Defenders: Aikim Andrews, Shannon Gomez, Mekeil Williams (all W Connection), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen), Jamal Jack, Akeem Benjamin (both Central FC), Justin Hoyte (Millwall), Uriah Bentick (Central FC);

Midfielders: Dwane James, Neveal Hackshaw (both North East Stars), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Jomal Williams (W Connection);

Attacking midfielders: Tyrone Charles, Johan Peltier (both San Juan Jabloteh), Ataulla Guerra (Central FC), Hashim Arcia, Akeem Garcia (both W Connection), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—US),

Strikers: Willis Plaza (Central FC), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic).

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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20 comments

  1. Big up Tobias Ottley work them

  2. A 17-year-old boy just got signed in the Dutch top flight. We still have a couple players in top flight football in Europe. And all are ex-Pro League players.
    The Pro League is not nearly as good as it should be. But it still helps. We would not have qualified for the last two Gold Cups without it.

  3. My only comment to the question of our players’ fitness is that the local players have always operated with less than the needed fitness (other things aside) necessary for outside competition. There is a stalemated type of measurement within the local teams since they match up against themselves and gauge their fitness by the levels of the local opposition and not by those levels that are out there. It’s been my clear observation and challenge 13 years ago. It is an item that will continue to plague us.

  4. while in T&T there isn’t much (if any at all) its a billion dollar industry around the world because there are investments there. what are the investments here in T&T, USSF recieves no money from the Federal Gov’t but have a Pro league bigger than ours and pay foreign players to come home a month before a game to prepare

  5. Arthlon Dcoach what is the ROI on football ?

  6. While you are entitled to your opinion Don when last did you attend a pro-league game to form this opinion??? Also if as you say T&T football will “reach nowhere” are you suggesting that your country stop playing international football “Trini” Don??? Finally, if as you say the product is “crap” what SOLUTION(S) do you propose/suggest or are you one of the 1.5m “Professional Critics” in this country who can only condemn?

  7. So Trini Don, does that mean we must stop play football in T&T, simply asking? I agree with ur comment but we (TTFA, Coaches, Players, Sponsors & Spectators) must all play our part to help bring it back to an acceptable level to compete at International competition

  8. Tnt football is crap, they will reach no where…from college league to Pro league etc….

  9. If we don’t have a designated physical conditioning coach, we need to hire one & then get the guys to start the following program daily (ask the foreign based players – past & present – if their club teams have physical condition coaches or what systems they use and implement something……we need to learn from them). INSANITY workout program will increase their fitness & stamina levels 50-100% in 3 months……just in time for the Gold Cup…..continue it and they will be prepared physically for the World Cup Qualifiers………only he true football professionals who want to improve their game will do their homework and do what they need to do to improve…………..Secondary schools, youth professional academies & youth national teams take note….This is extreme physical fitness….go until you can’t go anymore, catch your breath and then go again…..http://www.amazon.com/INSANITY-Base-Kit-DVD-Workout/dp/B002QZ1RS6

  10. I admire that he has even attempted to give some of these pro league players a look, cause to be honest in what has been a average pro league season in quality, not many players are seriously clamoring for an international call up.

  11. The problem Prince Borde is the often SLOW pace of the pro-league…International football…ESPECIALLY against a fast-paced team like Panama men will have to LIFT their physical AND mental readiness.

  12. Hold on, but aren’t they playing for their clubs right now? They should be fit!

  13. Hannibal Najjar

    Physical fitness is the key to mental fitness raising its bars and expectations. When you reach your near optimum level of physical fitness your mind and thought processes are enhanced and it’s here “where the two (body and mind) shall become one and with this, few men can put asunder.”

  14. Hannibal Najjar

    My only comment to the question of our players’ fitness is that the local players have always operated with less than the needed fitness (other things aside) necessary for outside competition. There is a stalemated type of measurement within the local teams since they match up against themselves and gauge their fitness by the levels of the local opposition and not by those levels that are out there. It’s been my clear observation and challenge 13 years ago. It continues to be an item that will continue to plague us.

  15. Everything starts with discipline. If you are disciplined you are likely to train hard, eat well and take your trade seriously and have a positive attitude. You will get enough sleep and not be out liming late hours. You have a diet that does not include KFC and doubles. Time and time again I have seen talented players fall by the wayside because of indiscipline and the indiscipline starts from a very early age.

  16. Well, he hopes to solve that by taking the players into camp by May and keeping them in training straight til the July tournament.
    Players are going to be monitored and evaluated fitness wise until then to see if they are complying with individual programs.
    Thing is he does not have a deep pool. He will struggle to replace players if they don’t shape up.
    And some key players like Hyland are not playing for their clubs.

  17. Can’t build fitness in a few national camps. It is something that has to be worked on consistently to bear fruit. My question is how does he ensure that players work to achieve the required standard when he doesn’t have oversight.

    He is one the right track though. A fit, disciplined team is an absolute necessity for success in the modern game. Skill alone isn’t enough.

  18. My concern remains the ProLeague concluding circa 2 months prior to the Gold Cup. If these guys aren’t up to Coach Hart’s fitness expectancy or standard international fitness, how is anyone (ProLeague players) going to get a pick on the squad ? Other than “the regulars”.