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Hart denies resignation rumours; but “concerned” about W/Cup campaign

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart was forced to deny rumours that he has quit his post, just two weeks before the team’s opening Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national senior team coach Stephen Hart studies his options during a 3-0 friendly defeat against Argentina in June 2014. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national senior team coach Stephen Hart studies his options during a 3-0 friendly defeat against Argentina in June 2014.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

The “Soca Warriors” play away to Guatemala on November 13 and then at home to the United States on November 17 in the opening fixtures of their four-team qualifying group, which also includes St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The top two nations will advance to the final round of CONCACAF’s 2018 World Cup qualifying series.

Hart, who has still not signed a new job contract offered by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), remained tightlipped on his feelings about the team’s preparation to date. However, he made two positions clear to Wired868 last night.

He has not resigned from his job. But he is also “concerned about preparations.”

He did not give further details.

In a TTFA release today, in response to a statement by CNC3 morning show host Hema Ramkissoon which also suggested a parting of ways, Hart again confirmed that he has not resigned.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart makes a point during a training session in Sao Paulo last year. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart makes a point during a training session in Sao Paulo last year.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

“There is no truth to the rumours,” said Hart, via the TTFA Media. “We have two crucial World Cup qualifying matches to prepare for and that remains the focus. The selection of the team is already finalised and will be made public shortly.”

Team manager William Wallace insisted that the Warriors have made recent headway in the preparation for their upcoming two matches and they are ready for action.

The Warriors leave for Fort Lauderdale on Saturday November 7 where they will have a four-day camp before heading to Guatemala on Wednesday November 11.

“I think we are ready,” Wallace told Wired868. “The camp in Fort Lauderdale will be crucial to our preparation. I have seen the importance of that getting-together before the (2015) Gold Cup and we are hoping to get the same result from this one.

“Once we get that, I think we can see the same result in Guatemala… Everything is in place, in terms of hotel and ground transportation there and so on.

“So we are ready to rumble.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) congratulates scorer Sheldon Bateau (right) after his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Cuba. Looking on is Andre Boucaud. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) congratulates scorer Sheldon Bateau (right) after his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Cuba.
Looking on is Andre Boucaud.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Wallace admitted that his response would have been very different if he were asked about the Warriors’ readiness, just three days ago.

On November 1, less than two weeks before Trinidad and Tobago’s opening World Cup qualifier, the Warriors did not even have confirmed airline bookings to take their players to Guatemala City or hotel reservations there.

Hart is believed to have exchanged strong opinions with key stakeholders inside and outside of the TTFA during that period.

The coach is a firm believer in Wallace’s administrative skills, though.

And, with the entire 2018 World Cup campaign in the balance, Wallace was able to get some relief after a series of meetings with the SPORTT Company.

“Since the sixth of October, all (2018 World Cup-related) documentation was submitted to the (Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs) and we had no traction since then,” said Wallace. “Last week was the first meeting (we had with Sport Ministry on the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign) and even that ended without any positive outcome.

“But within the last couple of days, things have gotten better and I was able to give more positive news and bring a relief to the staff.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team technical staff members (from right) Michael "Brow" Maurice, Derek King, Hutson "Barber" Charles and William Wallace exchange ideas before kick off against Nicaragua on 13 October 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team technical staff members (from right) Michael “Brow” Maurice, Derek King, Hutson “Barber” Charles and William Wallace exchange ideas before kick off against Nicaragua on 13 October 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

At present, none of the national football coaches are paid while Hart’s assistants are still without job contracts. The players and staff are also owed match fees for their last friendly match against Nicaragua, which ended goalless on October 13.

“The Cabinet note (from the last government) had stipends for staff members but that has ended and there is no other arrangement in place,” said Wallace. “So the staff has gone back to just getting match fees…

“We were told that with the procurement legislation, any payment of salaries and stipends must go to the CPO. Hopefully, we will navigate that after the US game.”

Last November, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee stripped former general secretary Sheldon Phillips of his responsibilities for “government relations and team management functions”, after Wired868’s exclusive two-part investigative report into several irregularities related to an exhibition match away to Argentina in June 2014.

Those duties were assigned to Wallace. However, his increased responsibilities did not come with a new contract or salary while Phillips continued to receive his full remuneration of roughly TT$45,000 per month plus a company car.

Wallace admitted that he still does not have a contract.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and former general secretary Sheldon Phillips. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and former general secretary Sheldon Phillips.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“At this time, I am doing pro bono work,” said Wallace, who is also an executive member of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL). “I have no arrangement in place (for payment)… I know the state of the association in terms of finances and it is difficult for me to insist on being paid when sometimes office staff have to wait over a month to be paid. So I couldn’t in all good conscience ask to be paid.

“(But) going forward, I think I should put something in place. I will arrange with the president.”

Hart informed Wired868, in a previous interview, that he will not sign a new contract with the TTFA without certain guarantees, which are believed to include remuneration for his support staff and stipulations around team preparation.

His previous contract expired at the July Gold Cup tournament, in which the coach steered the Warriors to the quarterfinal round for the second successive time.

Former coach Bertille St Clair, who took Trinidad and Tobago to the 2000 Gold Cup semifinal round, is the only other coach to take the two island republic into the knockout stage of the Confederation’s showpiece competition.

Photo: Coach Bertille St Clair (second from right) has a word with (from right) Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Michael Maurice, David Nakhid, Leslie Fitzpatrick and Clayton Ince during his stint with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior team. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Coach Bertille St Clair (second from right) has a word with (from right) Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Michael Maurice, David Nakhid, Leslie Fitzpatrick and Clayton Ince during his stint with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior team.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

For now, Hart, Wallace and company are focused on the Warriors’ next two assignments. And there was welcomed news from Cardiff City on Monday as national captain Kenwyne Jones resumed full training with his England Championship Division employers, after suffering a knock on his shin against Nicaragua.

Wallace said the Warriors are still desperate to do well and win the support of their compatriots, as they target a place at the Russia World Cup.

“We are hoping that after the (USA) game at home, we can take care of the outstanding match fees because the stadium is full to capacity,” said Wallace, with a laugh. “I recently received TT$50,000 from some business people, so I think my appeal to the corporate sector is bearing fruit, little by little.

“Many people have said that they were waiting to see what was happening with the Budget first. So hopefully things will improve there and good results will help our cause too.

“A good result in Guatemala would certainly give us momentum and there is always something about playing the US in November…

Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago football fan waves his flag during their 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup fixture against Cuba in Phoenix. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago football fan waves his flag during their 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup fixture against Cuba in Phoenix.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

“Once we come out of these games with even four points, we would have made an extremely good start to our campaign.”

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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32 comments

  1. Hmmm TTFA needs a serious haul over

  2. When oh when is this SHIT going to end?? The footballers suffer, the coaching staff suffer, the fans suffer while Tim Kee and his pardners smiling all the way to the bank in he three piece suit et al. Thought this new government would recognize the worth of Coach Hart and do all within it’s power to keep him on board but i seem to have forgotton Tim kee is part of them so what’s left to say. Hart Boy pick up yuh “grey” shirt and run like hell as fast as you can outta here because nothing changing anytime soon and all you will get is a kick in your ass for your patriotism.

  3. Some things just don’t change eh ….

  4. I have said a long time now…Hart should just walk out of football and leave them in their mess. The players will probably finally find a voice and stop accepting nonsense.

    • The problem is that savitri…he loves what he does so sometimes you enjoy working with the kids and really want to stay but administrators make it so difficult for u….I believe that some of them JUST DONT care…they enjoy the perks, flying around the world drinking and watching games, seating with the the elite and thats the ride they like…..so the work of getting things organize for the players they really dont give a dam its not that important …I have seen Many of them operate at international events and thats the bottom lime….we keep fooling ourselves and believing that they care….ask them to put their own money in when pressure comes around and see what happens. ..

    • Oh gosh Earl i know if SH didnt love the game and see potential in his squad he wouldnt be there today. Those boys probably appreciate him extending himself…but love doh pay d mortgage and put food on d table. There comes a point where you have to draw the line. And that us probably our biggest problem…we have no boundaries…so we continue to take the pi$$ with liberties we’re given.

    • Well that’s true…sad but true

    • And meh Boy Tim Kee claim to fame for re election is that HE brought in Coach Hart. Wonder how many people heard when Tim Kee said Leo Beenhakker told him he/ Beenhakker had the right man for the job and he was the one who recommended Hart. Not even sure if Beenhakker knew Hart was a home boy at the time but yet Tim Kee continues to screw Hart to the wall. SMDH!

  5. Agree Earl Jean… and the issue isn’t really money! Million$$ has passed through the TTFA. It’s how the money was spent & poor administration & policies.

  6. Sweet TnT…All this Sugar cant be good for we …

  7. Can u imagine a country of stature as caribbean kings …struggling to give the head coach what he needs for preparation. …what the heck is going on in this place….such talent in this country and the players and coaches always go through the same indecencies over and over….lack of monies or preparation…woow the head coach still does not have a signed contract…amazing, weeks before qualifiers. …come on !!!!!

  8. ..The problem goes way beyond Stephen, the national team and WC qualifying. And i know you understand that. I had a conversation on football development with him on Monday at the Toyota Cup draw and I agreed with all that he said. In turn, he agreed with me that the would be presidents of the TTFA don’t speak the same language we do. For them football is a platform for..

    • I suppose things could be worse but this is a pretty depressing picture all in all. Let’s all turn our eyes to November 29 and hope that by then we don’t have two matches played and nothing in the hutch. Let us at least hope that the new (we hope) president – I have not forgotten the Dave Cameron re-election scandal – does not have to start with a huge deeficit of that sort on his plate.

  9. Mannnn if they ever let this man go! ?

  10. I didn’t see it making sense that he would wait this long to resign just as we may have a new TTFA president. I think he will wait until then to see if they can out things in place for 2016 funding. If not…I expect dec 31st to see us trying to find a new coach

  11. Glad to know the rumours about him not saying Julia Roberts and said ENOUGH.

  12. Oh boy! Haven’t read it yet, drama, we play well under pressure o