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Hart problem! National coach in limbo as TTFA technical committee votes for shake-up

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart and his technical staff appear to be in limbo after the local football association’s technical committee met this afternoon to discuss the state of the Soca Warriors.

The meeting was called on the request of technical director Muhammad Isa. And, according to a well-placed source, the recommendation from the technical committee was: “changes have to be made.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to the final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City on 8 January 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to the final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City on 8 January 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

The source was tight-lipped as to exactly what change would satisfy the committee but, as head of the technical staff, Hart is believed to be in a precarious position.

Trinidad and Tobago have made a poor start to the CONCACAF Hex, as the Warriors lost 2-0 to Costa Rica in Port of Spain on 11 November and 3-1 to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago are second from bottom in the six team standings with only United States below them on goal difference. The Warriors were also eliminated from the Caribbean Cup in the group stage, after losing to Martinique last month.

Incidentally, the TTFA technical committee, which is chaired by TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene, is yet to hold a formal meeting with Hart and appears to have been guided by reports submitted by the coach as well as their own impressions of the team. Hart has yet not handed in his technical report on the Honduras defeat while technical director, Isa, did not travel with the team.

Regardless, the technical committee arrived at a decision without hearing from the coach—in writing or in person.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (centre) tussles with Costa Rica right wing back Christian Gamboa while T&T coach Stephen Hart looks on during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (centre) tussles with Costa Rica right wing back Christian Gamboa while T&T coach Stephen Hart looks on during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

There are still eight games left in the Hex and the top three teams advance automatically to the Russia 2018 World Cup while the fourth placed team enter a play off with Asia’s fifth placed nation. And the Warriors can still qualify for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup via a play off series that starts with matches against Suriname and Haiti on 4 and 8 January respectively in Trinidad.

TTFA president David John-Williams denied rumours that he travelled to South America, almost immediately after the Costa Rica defeat, to sound out potential replacements for Hart or that Jamaica 1998 World Cup coach Rene Simoes— a Brazilian who also had a brief, unsuccessful stint with Trinidad and Tobago in 2001—is the preferred choice.

Instead, John-Williams insisted that he only left the country to attend a CONCACAF course in Miami.

Last weekend, John-Williams called a special general meeting for the football body’s board of directors from 5.30pm on Wednesday 23 November in Port of Spain, although the TTFA’s AGM was already carded for 9am on Saturday 26 November at Naparima College in San Fernando.

According to the TTFA’s constitution, only the board of directors can hire or fire coaches and the 13-member body must now rule on whether to ratify the technical committee’s decision or reject it.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other's company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

The current TTFA board of directors comprises: John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and Allan Warner (vice-presidents), Samuel Saunders (Central FA), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon O’Brien (Women’s League Football), Wayne Cunningham (Eastern FA) and Skeene (TT Pro League).

The TTFA technical committee consists of: Skeene (chairman), Dr Alvin Henderson (vice-chairman), Bertille St Clair (former World Youth Cup coach), Errol Lovell (former national goalkeeper), Jinelle James (ex-national player and current administrator) and Isa (technical director).

However, Henderson—who is abroad—and the Tobago-based St Clair were both absent from this afternoon’s meeting.

W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier is no longer a member of the technical committee since, according to a member, he expressed an interest in applying for a coaching position. Fevrier, a former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach, resigned from the technical committee roughly six months ago, although the public was not informed.

Ironically, just an hour after the technical committee’s decision, United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati announced that their football body has sacked head coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Photo: USA coach and former Germany World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann cheers his team on.
Photo: USA coach and former Germany World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann cheers his team on.

Klinsmann, a former Germany World Cup winner as player and 2006 semifinalist as coach, took over the US team in 2011 and led them to the 2013 Gold Cup title and the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup.

He had another two years to run on his contract and claimed to have the support of outgoing United States president and Nobel prize winner, Barack Obama, who, according to Klinsmann, knows “the dynamics of soccer as a global sport” and “understands that it’s a long qualifying process.”

“It’s important to put this in the right perspective,” Klinsmann told Reuters. “We lost the two opening games [after we] played the two best teams right away. We have eight more games to get the points needed to qualify…

“I’m 1,000 percent sure we’ll qualify.”

In Trinidad, Hart was not nearly as unpopular as Klinsmann became in North America—Obama notwithstanding. A recent i95.5FM poll revealed that 52 percent of callers will welcome a new man at the helm but roughly half of the respondents still felt Hart can turn things around.

But the football body’s technical arm no longer appears to believe in the coach who was named on the CONCACAF Coach of the Year shortlist for two of his three and a half years in charge.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart (right) passes on instructions to left back Aubrey David during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart (right) passes on instructions to left back Aubrey David during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

At present, Hart leads a technical staff which includes Hutson “Barber” Charles, Derek King (both assistant coaches), Michael “Brow” Maurice (goalkeeper coach), Dave Isaac (trainer), Tobias Ottley (trainer/conditioner), Dr Terence Babwah (doctor), Saron Joseph (massage therapist), William Wallace (team manager) and Shaun Fuentes (media officer).

Former UWI SPEC director and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) sporting director, Justin Latapy-George, is also expected to be formally unveiled as successor to interim general secretary Azaad Khan at either Wednesday’s special general meeting or Saturday’s AGM.

Latapy-George is the younger brother of former World Cup 2006 player and local sporting icon Russell Latapy, who is employed by the TTFA as a youth coach at present.

Incidentally, controversial former TTFA general secretary Richard Groden was part of John-Williams’ screening committee for the general secretary post.

Groden was publicly warned by FIFA for his role in the infamous cash-for-votes scandal, which saw then vice-president Jack Warner banned for life, while he was intertwined in the World Cup 2006 bonus case between 12 players and the football body.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (far right) holds court with (from left) TTFA interim general secretary Azaad Khan, president David John-Williams, technical committee member Muhammad Isa and TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis in December 2015. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (far right) holds court with (from left) TTFA interim general secretary Azaad Khan, president David John-Williams, technical committee member Muhammad Isa and TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis in December 2015.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Despite a High Court order, Groden refused to reveal what money was banked by the TTFA during its Germany 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign—even under the threat of contempt for court—and the two parties eventually settled out of court.

However, Groden became a cooperative witness for FIFA against Warner and helped steady the football body at its lowest ebb after the departure of the Special Advisor in 2011. He was replaced as general secretary by Sheldon Phillips in May 2013.

Latapy-George, whose appointment is the call of the football president according to the constitution, seems set to become the body’s fourth general secretary in 13 months, after Phillips and interim appointments Paula Chester-Cumberbatch and Khan.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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155 comments

  1. Like it was still there too for Messi, Mourinho and Harty.

  2. I meant Molino. The yampee was still in meh eye when I read this crap.

  3. this happens when players dont show up for coaches especially the appointed captain

  4. Dey better try and get Klinsman quick …it can’t get any worse anyway…

  5. And the only three qualified real professional Coaches in our sweet country that will never be given their chances are Prof Jamaal Shabazz, Prof Stuart Charles Fevrier, and Prof Terry Fenwick and we all know why. steeuuppss. Them really good yes.

  6. As a footballer an a football fan, I’m sorry but he have to go…u as a coach can’t be playing the same game an have the wrong men in the wrong positions an the wrong men on the field…but if ur letting him go ur muss bring in a quality coach…we were 1 point after 3 games last time when we made the WC then Ben came in as coach…only difference is, York, Latapy, Shaka, etc. Came bk to the team…

  7. In 2000 St Clair was fired after reaching but losing a semi final match at the CONCACAF Gold Cup so judging from this Hart maybe in trouble. Maybe good sense will prevail

    • Lasana Liburd

      Agreed. They said St Clair was supposed to win the whole thing! Hahaha. Jack Warner was an excellent comic. But even that wasn’t as nasty as these seemingly empty claims that Stephen Hart intentionally jeopardised his goalkeeper’s safety.

  8. Failed to win Caribbean cup, failed to make it to Copa America, failed to make a straight Gold Cup but rather to go through play offs, and failing so far to qualify for the World Cup. If this is not enough grounds for the Sack then I don’t know what is. In my opinion they are taking too long. The earlier the better.

  9. And all the speculations that the Magician is going to be the next Coach of the Soca Worries, Alyuh think that my dictator president doesn’t know that it will take a real professional foreign base Coach to try to take us back to the World Cup again once more eh, because our local Coaches just doesn’t have what it takes eh. Them really good yes.

  10. I hoping Hart stays because he has done so well with the team! If Hart is replaced it better be someone who understand our culture and knows how to deal with the players. I remember even Rene Simoes taking the job and making a mess of things.

  11. The main question is if heaven forbid Stephen Hart dose get sacked does TTFA go after a European coach or go with Latapy

  12. Firing Hart does not make any sense

  13. Why don’t they just leave the man alone?

  14. Changes need to be made to the technical staff. Sadly, the coach and his staff chooses the wrong starting XI in my opinion. I think the coach should stay because it would be stupid to change the coach now but the rest of the technical team needs some change.

  15. Justin is a good person i hope he does not caught up in the nonsense

  16. They could hire Klinsmen. He need a wuk.

  17. Typically…short sighted in vision…nothing can be changed now…we can only open up all our resources to the current team and hope for the best

  18. I too feel Stephen Hart should be given the next two games in March to turn things around…he deserves it having gotten us this far… Bringing in a new Coach who has little time to put together a squad for the games vs Haiti and Suriname in early January.

    • Alyuh too sentimental and friendly.

      Whereas the U.S. mean business !

    • Friendly has nothing to do with it…I’ve seen this movie SEVERAL times before and it only ended well ONCE in 2005… before that 1997 Gally & a Brazilian replaces Vranes FAIL 2001 Porterfield replaces Bertille FAIL after that 2009 Latapy replaces Maturana FAIL and those are just the ones off the top of my head there were others as well…so I speak not out of SENTIMENT but EXPERIENCE…THOSE WHO DONT KNOW THEIR HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST!

    • If you’re saying Hart deserves to stay because he has gotten us this far, that is a pretty weak argument and definitely sentimental.

      If we’re saying history and experiences show us that every time we changed we got nothing out of it really, that’s also a weak argument to me.

      Hart should be staying because the board believes he has the capacity to give the team a meaningful shot at qualification. Anything else is just mamaguaying ourselves

    • Kirwin Weston the definition of madness is doing the SAME thing over and over and expecting a different result…Nuff said.

    • Lol, yuh sure right about that Brian Springer. Yuh sure right.

      So let us continue on, and see what the next 4 games brings him…and we’ll see what is being done over and over expecting a different result

  19. Who are these esteemed members of the committee? I suppose coaches with buckets of international experience and credible records?

  20. He was never ever supported by this President His lack of public support for his coach, even against indiscipline by players speaks volume. He will be fired, this is what they have been engineering for a while now.
    Will see how the boys cope. I wish my country all the best. We must support whoever is at the helm….

  21. Replacing Hart now is ah dotish idea! To deep in qualifying zone to add new blood.

  22. Would be a huge mistake to get rid of one of our best coaches – a local man to boot. Hope the BOD rejects the recommendation and give Hart another couple matches to turn things around. He really deserves a chance to finish the job. Molino and his shenanigans really effed things up.

  23. maybe maybe not. But the thing is Beenhaker got all he requested and that would have had a part to play in the success in 06. Maybe if St Clair had had the same resources things would have been different. But that’s hind sight we can’t do anything about that now. We are here and we are still hearing the same cry from a local ( well in this case Trini born) coach not getting the support and facilities require and requested to consistently perform at top level.

  24. That technical committee is loaded with an obsolete bunch of coaches who’ve had their time. Plain talk!

  25. He don’t have much talent to work with stop blaming d man d dam team ain’t good steups

  26. Did it make sense firing bertille for beenhakar after 1 point from 3 games ?!?! ….

  27. Well my Coach Hart you did your part but it wasn’t your fault that your two most important players did their madness eh, first Keron Ballpest” Cummings and then Mollino eh, and sorry that the bootleg professional league doesn’t have the real professional players that you could have really turned to eh, hence the reason why my German Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was also fired because my second sweetest country really feels that their MLS players can really compete against the real professional players in the real professional leagues in Europe eh, so good luck with your future endeavors with plenty blessings. Them really good yes.

    • The corrupted TTFA put the pressure on themselves eh, they doesn’t like to pay my Coaches and players, they nominate my dictator president who owns a professional team in our sweet country, which is definitely a conflict in interest, they doesn’t even have their own professional training fields and office after so much millions of monies passed thru and is still passing thru the corrupted organization and I can go on and on steeuuuppss, Them really good yes.

  28. one of the issues with a protracted decision process is that it also creates concerns in the minds of players. One cannot underestimate the possible relationships that players might have developed with the technical staff and coach. I can only hope that the decision will be properly orchestrated and communicated. The idea that the president went to south america (as suspected) scouting coaches etc. is not a good sign. Well run organizations would have had some properly designed processes which will reduce disruption and uncertainty at a critical time like this. The decision made now we will live with for the next few years and given this to and fro, I remain skeptical. If replacing Mr Hart was going to be the strategy, they must have been thinking of this a while ago and so much of this would have had to be in place

    • Brian, I agree with most of your comment. However, I am hesitant to believe that he has developed any special relationship with his players that would be impacted negatively if he leaves at this point.

    • Marcia, I’m not at all suggesting that that’s a reason to keep him. What I am saying is that the succession must be properly orchestrated. At the moment from reports it appears that his goose was cooked some time ago. If we John Public know that I’m sure the players might have had a smell of it. Going behind his back to look for a replacement while he’s still actively coaching is bad business and not done in properly run succession planning. The way this seems to be happening can further damage morale. Im not putting in a plug for coach hart or against him as I dint have enough details. I just wish we learn to manage better in TT. A few weeks ago when I suggested that we need better corporate structure around TT football I was taken to task as that was seen as an academic idea. But here we go ….. Lasana you will have plenty material to write about – say thanks

    • Well said Brian. And Marcia if one thing is known Coach Hart is well respected and liked by his players, But this coup was in the making long time. Is it a coincidence that Hyland broke camp twice knowing the consequences and got off with a slap on the wrist after the Coach banned him before a crucial match? What about the calibre of our players vis a vis the other teams. The highest ranked player for us plays in the MLS while the other teams have players in EPL, European teams like Dortmund, Lyon etc. Yet we expect miracles from Hart when he also gets little support from the TTFA head and his cohorts. So Hart i agree leave and let the Monday coaches have their day because they could bring Moreno or Guadiola . It will be the same shit different day.

  29. Shake up the “professional” players!

  30. Shake up the effin TTFA Tech Committee!!

  31. Not surprised but not happy about it

  32. Hmmm, when is Hart’s deadline to submit the match report.

    Last time a coach didn’t submit on time, he was promptly fired !

    Look out

  33. Because all of this is to get Hart out?

  34. Why hasn’t technical committee met with Hart? Trying to under that and why there seems to be a rush to suggest a change in team staff leadership without first meeting face to face..

  35. hmmm. You know I really wonder if the players and coaches had been given all they require (As Beenhaker also obtained) if results would be different and also then the sacking if true may/could be justified. I keep hearing the coach complaining about not getting what they need access to the playing field, facilities etc. TTFA I guess is within their right to hire or fire, personally I don’t know if it makes sense at this stage to fire Hart. I guess time will tell.

  36. I don’t know how to feel about this.. without a doubt Hart has made the biggest impact since the Leo. I understand the pressure now with the poor form recently.. but I think it would be difficult for any coach to come in now and get immediate success. Hart has guided us through the Gold Cup before and knows the depth of our players.. I wudve stuck with him

  37. . The question is – replace Hart with who? Something has to be done about this team but the RIGHT thing. Let’s see what the TTFA’s next move is..

  38. Wow, would be disappointing to see Hart sacked but it seems like the writing has been on the wall for a while now. On the subject of Richard Groden, it seems like his co-operation with FIFA in the scandal has rid him of the ”controversial” tag, so much so that FIFA installed him as temporary General Secretary of the Guyana Football Federation last year, using him as a ”role model” for Guyanese administration.

  39. Jurgen Klinsmann gone so I’m certain that this group must look at Hart and if he has the ability to turn things around.

  40. The truth is that we trying to qualify on a shoe string budget. Without government support for big $ for a high end coach which is unlikely in the current economic climate and without major corporate sponsor then I think we would be hard pressed to find a better option than Hart. He has been able to work magic before and they should hear what he has to say. He clearly needs to shake up his team. He wanted Bostock badly which shows that he knew he needed some new pieces but that hasnt worked out so well so far. A trip out to talk to him might be in order. Wonder if there are any other players out there with Trini connections. Wonder what Leo is doing these days since he was sacked by Poland…having him in as a consultant might be a good idea as well….

    • Lasana Liburd

      Hart didn’t have a budget to fly out to scout or talk to potential players abroad. I don’t know that this has changed. Three years ago, Beenhakker refused to come to Trinidad to work for a football body that was owing its staff. I don’t think he would change his mind there. Doesn’t seem like he is wanted again anyway.