The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior and Under-20 Women Teams have started preparation for upcoming international football tournaments with no appointed head coach for either squad.
The senior women are preparing for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and Rio 2016 Olympic Game qualifiers while the youth will soon start their Papua New Guinea 2016 Under-20 World Cup campaign.
St Ann’s Rangers Women’s Team coach and Pro League team manager Jason Spence was named assistant coach of the senior and youth teams and has handled the sessions for both along with fellow assistant coach, Desiree Sarjeant. The two teams have trained together so as to make up numbers.
“I am trying to get the women ready for the Pan Am games and the Olympic qualifiers,” Spence told Wired868, “and the under-20s are getting ready for their CFU competition, which starts in June. I brought them together to make sure the numbers are good for a quality session.
“In the first session, last Tuesday, there were 28 players, which was a mixture of seniors and under-20s. A number of them are into exams and CXC and so on, so it is a challenge to get them to come out.”
It is a far cry from the adrenalin rush of wearing the red, white and black strip for both teams in 2014. The National Under-20 Team, led by captain Anique Walker and technical director Anton Corneal, came within four minutes of an Under-20 World Cup place, only to be held 3-3 by Costa Rica in regulation time and then spanked 7-3 in extra time.
And the “Women Soca Warriors”, captained by Maylee Attin-Johnson and coached by American Randy Waldrum, were on even terms with Ecuador for 179 minutes of their 180 minute two-legged FIFA Play Off contest before conceding a heartbreaking last minute goal at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 2 December 2014.
One senior player, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Wired868 that the lengthy layoff and uncertainty since the Play Off match has only added to the players’ frustration.
“It is absolute madness,” said the women’s player. “From almost qualifying for the World Cup four months ago to just absolutely no football and then now we don’t even have a coach or know the future of the team.
“Football is our passion and the girls just want to play and represent their country but it is really hard to do with how terrible our administration is. Regardless of us having no money, things can be done a lot better in terms of communication with the team.
“Why, after all that time, do we still have no senior coach?”
Spence is none the wiser himself.
“All I know is, based on the appointment that I got, I am the assistant coach of both of the teams,” he said. “I’m guessing that Randy (Waldrum) will continue as head coach of the Senior Team. And I’m not sure who will take charge of the Under-20s; that I cannot answer for you.”
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee chairman Richard Quan Chan confirmed that former head coach, Waldrum, is their first choice. But Quan Chan could not say when the TTFA would make a final decision.
“We are in discussions with Randy Waldrum (and) are talking with him about the possibilities,” Quan Chan told Wired868. “He is getting the girls to work so we will want to see what possibilities there are. And the Under-20 job is part of that discussion, although my personal view is that one (head) coach cannot work with two teams. It will be very difficult.
“We have been trying to finalise over the last three to four weeks and it might take another two weeks… Everything is not straightforward. We will have to do something soon.”
At the moment, Waldrum already has a job. The Texan is head coach of the Houston Dash squad, which competes in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). And Dash will be in action this August when the Women Warriors are battling for Pan American glory in Toronto.
Last year, local coach Marlon Charles covered for Waldrum while the latter handled his duties in Dallas. However, Charles but dumped by the TTFA before the women’s CONCACAF qualifiers and was not even offered a ticket to watch the Warriors’ decisive Play Off match against Ecuador.
The Chaguanas South Secondary teacher, who also coached the current youth team at under-17 level, said he will not consider another national appointment until he is paid outstanding stipends.
“I’m not going to do anything until they pay me what they are supposed to pay me,” said Charles, who said he was not paid his monthly TT$3,000 stipend since 2012. “I’m not getting into the fussing and fighting, I just want to get what is owed to me…
“If they give me the opportunity to coach one of the teams, I don’t have a problem. But that must be cleared up first.”
The anonymous Women’s Warrior suggested that her teammates are prepared to work under a new coach if necessary and are happy to have a local boss. But she said they are anxious for an illustrious appointment.
“If Randy can share his time properly with the national team and make an impact with the time he has, then I am all for it,” said the senior player. “If not, we need a new coach. I am thinking along the lines of an Angus Eve or a Terry Fenwick… You can’t bring a coach without a level of success to their name, otherwise players will think: ‘What are you coming to teach us?’ That is human nature.
“We want someone with success who can demand that level of authority over players. At the last Pan Am Games, we saw how players played as if they would die for Angus and players always enjoy working for Fenwick too.”
Angus Eve, who is Trinidad and Tobago’s appearance record holder, led North East Stars to the 2015 TTFA FA Trophy and steered Naparima College to the 2014 SSFL Premier Division and BG T&T/First Citizens Big Four titles.
And Fenwick, who represented England at the 1986 World Cup, is one of the Pro League’s most successful coaches and is on the verge of helping Central FC to its first league title.
Incidentally, Eve’s first coaching job was as Fenwick’s assistant at Jabloteh although there is little love lost between the pair these days.
While the TTFA contemplates its Senior and Under-20 Women’s head coaches, new technical director Kendall Walkes quietly begun his duties with the local football body earlier this month. Walkes is a former technical director at West Chester University in the United States and the third successive North American-based appointment from current general secretary Sheldon Phillips, after men’s head coach Stephen Hart and Waldrum.
The TTFA has still not paid off its last technical director, Anton Corneal, but needed to hire a replacement before it could access FIFA funding or its annual subvention. The football body is believed to have received in excess of US$750,000 (TT$4.7 million), which is the TTFA’s subvention plus its share in television rights from the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
The Women Warriors hope some of that money will be invested into their teams. Thus far, the mood has been downbeat.
“I feel they just don’t care about women’s football,” said one player. “They say there is no money but where is the $1.5 million (collected from the Ecuador Play Off) that they said would be pumped back into women’s football? Four months later and we haven’t seen a dollar from that; so where is the transparency or accountability?
“We don’t play for money but, if they are making money off of us, then the players want what is due. It is a very frustrating and unfortunate situation and it is pushing people away from wanting to represent their country.”