Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams has been accused of an extraordinary slight on National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart, after the newly elected official allegedly tried to arrange an exhibition match for the “Soca Warriors” behind the coach’s back.
John-Williams, who replaced Raymond Tim Kee as TTFA president on 29 November 2015, allegedly walked on to the field during a national training session at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva yesterday and asked Hart and his coaching staff to let him talk with the players alone.
Then John-Williams, according to two members of the squad who spoke on condition of anonymity, asked the players if they were willing to play a fourth international exhibition game against Equatorial Guinea, after three fixtures against Peru, Uruguay and China on May 23 and 27 and June 3 respectively.
Remarkably, the TTFA president’s approach to the players is believed to have followed Hart’s refusal to play that fourth fixture.
The Warriors play in Lima on May 23 and Montevideo on May 27 before jetting to China for a game in Qin Huang Dao on June 3.
The proposed exhibition with Equatorial Guinea in Port of Spain, according to the source, was set to be penciled in within a week of the China clash. However, Hart is believed to have been apprehensive about belatedly squeezing in a fourth fixture after such an arduous travel schedule.
John-Williams, according to one player, attempted to show Hart who was boss by ignoring the chain of command and approaching the players directly.
Eight of the current training squad are trying to break into the World Cup squad and some of the players allegedly told the TTFA president that they were willing to play. However, senior players requested more time for the team to make a collective decision.
The players subsequently emailed John-Williams to say they did not want the match.
Hart, who was selected on CONCACAF’s Coach of the Year shortlist for two of the last three years, refused comment on the incident and declined to confirm or deny whether it indeed took place. And John-Williams did not respond to our request for comment.
However, if true, the TTFA president might have hit a new low and crossed a line that even his most controversial predecessors avoided.
Disgraced ex-FIFA vice-president and TTFA special advisor Jack Warner was known to interfere with team selection and tactics. However, Warner was not known to do so in front of the players.
Former football president Oliver Camps once famously tried to speak to then national coach Bertille St Clair on the training ground, over a decade ago. St Clair asked Camps to leave at once and, subsequently, informed him that the football field was the coach’s domain and should be respected as such.
John-Williams, who has already sacked his technical director Kendall Walkes and replaced women’s coach Randy Waldrum, apparently has no intention of recognising such boundaries, or the authority of his head coach, Hart, either.
Ironically, the TTFA president assured Wired868, in an interview before the 2015 TTFA elections, that he would not try to interfere with team selection or impose himself on the national coach.
“Any coach who is worth his salt will not function under a process like that,” said John-Williams, in an interview published on 26 November 2015. “The coach is responsible for the results of the team, so how can I go in the dressing room and tell the coach who to pick when he is responsible for the result?
“(…) I won’t impose myself on Stephen Hart or any other coach. For sure, I won’t.”
Incidentally, John-Williams only formally met with the National Senior Team for the first time during the current camp. It is also the first time that neither team captain Kenwyne Jones nor vice-captain Jan-Michael Williams were involved in the national set-up.
John Williams, who is also the owner of the W Connection football club, sacked Williams (JM), three years ago, after a dressing room fall-out between the goalkeeper and club coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier.
Jones and the TTFA president are also believed to have clashed over business relating to the former’s transfer out of the club.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (North East Stars);
Defenders: Aubrey David (Saprissa FC—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones, Daneil Cyrus, Triston Hodge (all W Connection), Weslie John (CD Universidad—El Salvador), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Andre Ettienne (Central FC), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark);
Midfielders: Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Leston Paul (Central FC), Khaleem Hyland (KVC Westerlo—Belgium);
Attacking midfielders: Jomal Williams (W Connection), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar—Netherlands), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (Alianza FC—El Salvador), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Makesi Lewis (Police FC);
Additions for China match: Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E Land—Korea Republic), Marcus Joseph (Central FC).