Pro League defending champions, Central FC, parted company with their veteran midfield star and former captain, Marvin Oliver, in controversial fashion this morning at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
The evergreen Oliver, who turns 41 in August and was the club’s best player last season, was handed an oddly worded termination letter by Central manager Kevin Jeffrey and allegedly told not to join his teammates on the training ground.
Oliver’s contract with the club runs until 31 May 2016.
Bizarrely, the Pro League club claimed that it was Oliver who asked to be released.
The termination letter was not signed by club chairman Brent Sancho or operations manager Kevin Harrison and suggested that the player wanted to leave the “Couva Sharks.”
“Team manager Kevin Jeffrey has informed me that you have requested the club to terminate (sic) your contract as you wish to move to a new club,” stated the letter, which bore the name of head coach Dale Saunders but no signature. “While this news has saddened me as you are very much an important member of the squad, I have no wish to retain your services if you are no longer comfortable with the team…
“It is with great reluctance that I will accede to your request and arrange for your release, effective today.”
Sancho and his former 2006 World Cup teammate, Stern John, were both on the training ground where they now serve as assistant coaches to Saunders. None spoke to Oliver and Jeffrey allegedly warned him not to approach the group during the session.
Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to get comment on the termination letter from Central FC management.
Oliver, who helped Central to their first Pro League and Caribbean Cup titles last year, said he felt set up, victimised and mistreated by the Sharks’ management.
On Wednesday 16 September 2015, Oliver was among 24 players who wrote to Central’s then board of directors and urged them not to reinstate Sancho and Harrison—former Sport Minister and advisor to the Sport Minister respectively—until they were cleared of several allegations related to their conduct at the club.
At the time, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) was investigating Sancho and Harrison regarding their: conduct with regards to the transfers of Central FC forward Rundell Winchester, the signing of then 16-year-old winger Levi Garcia, and the alleged misappropriation of CONCACAF funds and non-payment of bonuses to Central players.
The TTFA’s investigations have stalled under new president David John Williams.
The players’ stance was ineffective as, with the help of Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel, Sancho and Harrison seized control of the club.
Oliver and Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams were both subsequently quizzed by Sancho about their role in the players’ petition that sought to keep them at bay.
Oliver ran afoul of Central management again after the 2015 First Citizens Cup final on October 30, as he was among several players fined five percent of their salaries—without a hearing—for not collecting medals.
Central gave the veteran midfielder a one week suspension on top of the fine for tossing the disciplinary letter to the ground in disgust.
Over the past week, Oliver claimed he was frozen out of the first team and watching from the sidelines as Saunders worked on his shadow drills for the Pro League squad.
The elegant, versatile midfielder was initially left out of the 22-man squad to face rivals, DIRECTV W Connection, on Sunday but subsequently received a late call-up and was an unplayed substitute for the game, which ended 1-1.
After the game, Oliver said he approached Saunders and Jeffrey and asked whether he was in their plans as a player. And, if not, whether a loan away from the team was possible.
“After the game, I asked if there were any plans for me because I could just sit on the bench and collect money but I wanted to contribute,” said Oliver. “I said they could send me on loan for the rest of the season if they had no plans for me. They told me to talk to Brent (Sancho) about it and I said I don’t need to do that but if I got an offer (from another club) I will tell him.
“The last thing Dale told me was ‘don’t worry yourself’. Then I come this morning to train and Kevin Jeffrey hand me a letter saying my contract was terminated.”
Oliver vowed to contest the dismissal and will fight for the TT$6,000 owed to him in wages plus the remaining worth of his contract, which is an additional TT$40,000.
“This is an embarrassment,” Oliver told Wired868. “I can walk away from football now but they have to pay me. They are real disrespectful.”
The bean-pole Rastafarian lashed out at his former employers and said that players were subjected to a toxic atmosphere at Central. He claimed that Williams, who asked to be replaced as club captain, was was also being victimised.
Oliver called Sancho a hypocrite for his supposedly oppressive approach to footballers, despite being one of the founding members of the defunct Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT).
“Those fellahs don’t mean good to young players,” said Oliver. “I can say plenty about what goes on at Central but the Father says a still tongue is better. What happened today hurt but the joy is greater. I can walk with my head high.
“I know Brent (Sancho) from when we played National Under-12 together. Dale Saunders and I played National Under-23 football and Stern John and I played in the EFA (Eastern Football Association) together.
“Now, they can’t watch me in my face. They got opportunities I didn’t get as a player but I have more class than those fellahs.”
Although Oliver, who has a CONCACAF licence for grassroots coaching, faces an uncertain future, he said he was happy to leave the work environment at Central, which, he claimed, steadily worsened after the departures of former coaches Terry Fenwick and Zoran Vranes allowed Sancho and Harrison more hands-on opportunities with the playing squad.
“To tell you the truth, I feel good to come away from this environment,” Oliver told Wired868. “The good I feel in my spirit is I don’t have to pray with evil people every morning. It is like freedom. Like I am out of prison after 50 years and chains just come off of me.
“I gave them everything. But God knows best and this is how this has to end.
“I was helping their empire to stand up and I am glad that I am free of that.”
Oliver was one of just two survivors from Central’s first Pro League match on 19 October 2012 along with defender Keion Goodridge.
Former World Cup 2006 attacker, Anthony Wolfe, scored a penalty that afternoon as the Sharks got off to a winning start under former Chelsea coach Graham Rix.
Oliver played for five coaches at Central, as Rix was succeeded by Fenwick, Vranes, Ross Russell and current head coach, Saunders. The former San Juan North student was recently selected among the Secondary Schools Football League’s (SSFL) best players over its initial 50-year history.
(Central team against Police FC on 19 October 2012)
Central FC (4-1-4-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Dylon Charles, 6.Marc Leslie, 3.Keion Goodridge (26.Quincy Charles 78), 24.Akeem Adams; 10.Marvin Oliver; 7.Hayden Tinto (17.Shaquille Nesbitt 74), 15.Sayid Freitas, 18.Cyrano Glen (20.Darryl Trim 62), 14.Tyrone Charles; 9.Anthony Wolfe (captain).
Unused substitutes: 13.Shane Mattis (GK), 12.Simba Aberdeen, 16.Carey Harris, 19.Adrian Noel.
Coach: Graham Rix
(Oliver’s trophy haul with Central FC)
2013/14: First Citizens Cup, Lucozade Sport Goal Shield
2014/15: Caribbean Club Championship, Pro League title, Digicel Pro Bowl, First Citizens Cup, Rawle Fletcher Cup, Akeem Adams Cup, Kevon Carter Cup
2015/16: Digicel Charity Shield, First Citizens Cup
(Central FC’s termination letter)
Team manager Kevin Jeffrey has informed me that you have requested the club to terminate (sic) your contract as you wish to move to a new club.
While this news has saddened me as you are very much an important member of the squad, I have no wish to retain your services if you are no longer comfortable with the team.
Your service with Central FC has been legendary and I know I speak on behalf of management, staff and supporters by thanking you for your contribution to Central FC’s success.
It is with great reluctance that I will accede to your request and arrange for your release, effective today.
I wish you good luck in your career and I know you still have much to offer to football in Trinidad and Tobago.
Yours in football,