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How the TTFA ended up with Saintfiet; and DJW’s role in the whole affair

The local football body’s board of directors, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) constitution, holds the ultimate responsibility to: “appoint the coaches for the representative teams and other technical staff.”

And it is the board of directors that: “shall appoint the chairmen, deputy chairmen and members of the standing committees”—including the technical committee, which advises the board on technical and development issues.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from left) welcomes new National Senior Team coach Tim Saintfiet (second from right) during a press conference at the Marriott Hotel on 7 December 2016. Looking on is new general secretary Justin Latapy-George (far left) and technical director Muhammad Isa. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from left) welcomes new National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet (second from right) during a press conference at the Marriott Hotel on 7 December 2016.
Looking on is new general secretary Justin Latapy-George (far left) and technical director Muhammad Isa.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Yet, in the selection of the Men’s National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet, TTFA president David John-Williams—according to a football insider—played a curious intermediary role between board and technical committee that could have potentially infringed upon the function of both entities.

The technical committee, of its own volition, decided to prioritise prospective coaches who had experience leading international teams within the last three years. It was a curious marker since it meant Saintfiet—whose last job as Bangladesh coach had the sum total of one draw and two losses from three games—would place higher than Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp.

And it meant curtains for, among others, ex-Trinidad and Tobago international captain David Nakhid and former San Juan Jabloteh coaches Terry Fenwick, who lives in Trinidad, and Ricky Hill.

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So, the technical committee decided on a four-man shortlist of former Japan coach Philippe Troussier, ex-Honduras World Cup coach Luis Fernando Suarez, El Salvador youth coordinator and former Colombia coach Eduardo Lara and Saintfiet, whose highpoint was in charge of a Togo team ranked 96 in the world at the time.

The committee, as John-Williams suggested in today’s press conference, ranked the coaches in this order: Troussier, Saintfiet, Suarez and Lara.

Photo: Former Japan World Cup coach Philippe Troussier was supposedly too expensive for the TTFA.
Photo: Former Japan World Cup coach Philippe Troussier was supposedly too expensive for the TTFA.

That ranking, according to the source, was because the technical committee did not know if Suarez or Lara spoke English and decided that should outweigh the possible difference in a skill level between Suarez—who took Ecuador and Honduras to World Cups—and Saintfiet whose only brief top flight coaching experience in Europe came in the Faroe Islands.

Crucially, the technical committee never spoke to a single candidate. Instead, they looked at the CVs submitted by the respective coaches and used Google.

And, when their shortlist was done, it was passed on to John-Williams—and not the board. The president was asked to find out whether Suarez or Lara spoke English.

John-Williams reported back that Troussier was too expensive and Suarez and Lara were unavailable—it is still uncertain if either man spoke English or whether it posed an insurmountable barrier in the first place. Incidentally, the TTFA president also supposedly spoke to former United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann earlier and claimed the German said he had already agreed terms to coach in China.

Saintfiet, John-Williams said, was available and affordable.

And on Monday evening, after two weeks in which names like Carlos Dunga, Frank Rijkaard and Suarez were whispered as potential replacements for former national coach Stephen Hart, the TTFA’s board of directors was given just one name to consider: Saintfiet.

Photo: Former Bangladesh coach Tom Saintfiet. (Copyright Ethiosports)
Photo: Former Bangladesh coach Tom Saintfiet.
(Copyright Ethiosports)

It was either vote for the obscure Belgian or nothing—which, presumably, could have meant a fresh probe by the technical committee. The board of directors opted for Saintfiet.

John-Williams spoke briefly about the selection process today.

“The technical committee shortlisted four people, which they recommended the TTFA talk to in particular ranking order,” said the TTFA president. “And Tom came out on top. He was not our first choice—for sure. Our first choice was way out of what we could have afforded. And I make no apologies for saying that.

“And I can tell you who our first choice was as well. Philippe Troussier. And Tom knows that.”

John-Williams also issued a remarkable public threat to the football body’s new coach—at his unveiling, no less.

“I will also tell you this… if he doesn’t get the job done on the 24 and 28 of March, he will be looking for a job,” said John-Williams. “And I make no apologies for saying that. He is laughing but we’re very serious.

“Because if we don’t get the job done on the 24th and 28th of March, we might as well kiss our campaign goodbye.”

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) smiles with fourth official Cecile Hinds before the First Citizens Bank Cup final between Defence Force and Ma Pau Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 2 December 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) smiles with fourth official Cecile Hinds before the First Citizens Bank Cup final between Defence Force and Ma Pau Stars at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 2 December 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

So Saintfiet has two games to save his job—and, arguably, is already emasculated publicly before he has even met his team or enjoyed his first day on the job. His vulnerability is unlikely to be an asset when he tries to impose himself on the Soca Warriors dressing room.

But, since only the TTFA board of directors can hire and fire coaches, did John-Williams get approval for his colleagues before his threat, which was supposedly written into Saintfiet’s contract?

Our source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed John-Williams’ threat to sack Saintfiet in three months was not sanctioned by the board.

Wired868 asked the TTFA president whether he got board approval for an early dismissal of Saintfiet, whether the board received only one name to vote for as coach and why he did not pass on at least two prospective coaches for selection.

He did not respond up to the time of publication.

After a bombastic start to his reign as football president—when he sacked head women’s coach, Randy Waldrum, and merely informed the board after the fact—John-Williams was careful to be more circumspect in the replacement of Hart.

Whether that means Saintfiet’s hiring was done by the book is debatable, though.

Photo: Former Bangladesh coach and new Soca Warriors head coach Tom Saintfiet. (Copyright BBC)
Photo: Former Bangladesh coach and new Soca Warriors head coach Tom Saintfiet.
(Copyright BBC)

The current TTFA board of directors comprises: David 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 Dexter Skeene (TT Pro League).

The TTFA technical committee consists of: Dexter 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 Muhammad Isa (technical director).

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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194 comments

  1. DJW is turning out to be the most incompetent and egotistical President of the TTFA. If Hart was so bad and was removed, how can they bring in someone who has an atrocious record and have not coach any team (national or Club) with pedigree? It is also an insult to our local coaches. I believe all supporters and nationals in general should protest this appointment and send a clear message in boycotting upcoming WC games! Am no expert, but I was hoping we get someone who have knowledge and experience in Latin football in order to challenge the central american teams in this Hex…DJW must go!

  2. He is bringing one foreigner. Otherwise he will probably take who he is given.
    Again it is the board who supposed to make those appointments too. Nothing confirmed.

  3. Hannibal Najjar

    One simple comment about our newly appointed coach. This guy has the courage to not fear losing – good thing? In one sense, yes! Does he know how to win? It appears not – good thing? In every sense, no! Our team needs greater discipline in 4 key areas 1. Be sharper at finishing, 2. Be more crisp and precise in keeping team shape especially in defense, 3. Understanding and swiftly responding to transition situations, 4. Attaining greater emotional strength and guidance on and especially off the field on an astutely timely basis. This new coach’s strength appears clearly, to not be what our team needs most. Those currently in the Hex, are each collectively more ready than we are and the reintervention of Bruce to the “Arena” now has sent the US to a sure qualification spot, thus making evermore our only chance is via that, 4th, half-place spot.

  4. A more experience coach should have been hired not a want to be journey man coach speaking of coaches any word on his assistance coaches yet Lasana Liburd

  5. Saintfiet has snagged a job in T&T? All I can say is that I am very sorry for you chaps, Lasana… This man has been an African journeyman and ran out of options in the continent. I guess he’s on his Carribbean round!

  6. Tom selection was by cost and not ability , China man always say’s Cheap thing no good , Good thing no cheap .

  7. The board and technical committees are puppets. On this day and age, they failed to interview a single candidate and resorted to Google. Lord, our football is in poor hands!

  8. Google search? Insulting as hell!

  9. Like Google doh wuk fuh de TTFA, because if it did, I doh see how Saintfiet would even be on a shortlist. My cursory investigation shows that over his last four coaching assignments in charge of national teams, Saintfiet was in charge of 28 international matches, winning 3, losing 22, and drawing 3:

    Bangladesh (3 months, 3 matches, 0 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw)
    Togo (1 year, 9 matches, 2 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws)
    Malawi (3 months, 5 matches, 1 win, 4 losses, 0 draws)
    Yemen (6 months, 11 matches, 0 wins, 11 losses, 0 draws)

  10. So we take the discounted ‘gold fish’ and tell him if he doesn’t win our next two Hex games he will be looking for a job…then what, he will miraculously find money to hire a top coach? If we loose our next two games it’s over, so DJW may as well keep him….I wish the team and coach all the best but I have a feeling this won’t end well.

  11. One thing I know for sure – the selection process which I would have (and have) implemented would have been far more rigorous . The resumes would have been the least important data point – they would have had 2-3 days of interviews lasting between 3-6 hours per segment. We souls have done 30-50 references to test several factors and these would have included players he coached, managers of teams they coached against, presidents of FA’s that previously employed him. They would have had to do a. U.K. rural assessment. He would also have been interviewed by 4-6 current members of the national team – and yes their feedback is important. We would have some background checks and character references. A dossier would then have been presented to the board on the candidates shortlisted – two would have been recommended for final interviews (although they could interview the four if they wish) with an interview checklist and scoring sheet . The end result would have a process whereby even if he ranked second they can make a case for him over the others and they can certainly indicate cost as a factor (quite legit) but at least there would have been a thorough vetting of the markets.

    • Yeah but if you have the benefit of time that would be great.

    • Your process has merit but I could counter and say these jokers they call TTFA didn’t have the luxury of time to do all of that and to hire people you need money. If you ‘gots’ no money or little money be prepared to get a coach matching your wallet. —Having said that I present to you Tom Saintfiet—

    • David CB Smith they chose not to have the benefit of time. The process was badly managed. Companies hire and fire senior people all the time. If djw knew he didn’t want hart a confidential process could have been going on for 3-4 mths in the background – I’ve done that a lot and one walks in the day the other leaves

    • Chica Emery yep I agree that’s how it went

    • There wasn’t time? The TTFA took two weeks to make this selection and the technical committee never even spoke to the coach. :-/

    • Lasana Liburd see my reply to David CVB smith above

    • Some professional clubs have three replacements for every player in their squad and for their coach. And they update that list every six months.
      That way as soon as a bid comes in for a player, they already know his valuation and his possible replacements.
      How do you think USA appoint Bruce Arena within 24 hours of releasing Klinsmann?

    • Lasana Liburd tell them duh! But a man say yiu have to know football to manage like this – BS ! And another say kick a lime BS! This is everyday stuff for good leaders . We are a joke of a country

    • We need 3 replacement for TTFA President and this should be updated every week.

    • Lasana, this is not a real country. You really expect these cowboys to be so prepared, aren’t you tired and fed up of this shite?

    • Brian Harry, I keep telling people doh sit down outside and talk, come home and show them

    • Savitri Maharaj I did. I came hime and tried for five years! I then left because I didn’t want to do certain tings …… so back to Houston which is where o am now

    • You see I know how you feel. You had 5 years, I suffering for 11 now and its not a nice place to be

    • Savitri Maharaj also remember all the people who talking loud now on FB remained silent not too long ago. So who do I trust with my back? No one? Plenty FB talkers talking to get followers and to get board seats because of the selection criteria. Don’t get me started

    • Brian Harry from all that u said here anyone with an idea about what it takes to get things done in sport in Trinidad would know who the real joker is!! Lasana Liburd for someone who knows how difficult it is to access funding even in the best of times to encourage such foolish talk really speaks of hidden agendas i would have love to see ur take had DJW on taking office last December start by interviewing coaches for head coach position?? The man in trying to streamline things ask all members of staff to apply so contracts can be issued u threw a fit u are showing urself to be a BIG HYPOCRITE!! U know me and my thing is sport as a vehicle for change so when ppl wrong give them licks but we they’re right do the right thing nah! U coming like the man that kill the goose that laid the golden egg u think highlighting and in some cases creating bacahnal will promote ur website but when u kill sports unrighteously u will be left with nothing but satire. Note brian manning comments!! Professor Jamaal Shabazz i know u busy bringing the change but read these comments here nah note Lasana statement in support and his position when a similar project was started!!

    • Gordon Pierre I don’t know who the joker is. Please shed some light for me. Remember I don’t live in TT so don’t know the personalities

    • Gordon I really can’t read over that rant nah. If you think a team keeping tabs on potential replacements for its employees is the same as asking people to reapply for their positions then go ahead.
      Hart said it created anxiety within his staff which was already in mid World Cup campaign.
      Then you would turn around and say the reason team has issues is because of problems three years ago.
      Like i said, I really not going to try and decipher where you’re going with that.

  12. Wait where’s Trini Don ? Look yuh new coach

  13. We will have a great cricket team now ??

  14. By Rattans real cheap in this eat ah food country

  15. We now have a Coach that we get in a “Sale”…. Affordable… Lol…..

  16. Given the technical committee’s criteria, why would Troussier be their #1 when he hasn’t coached a national team in about 10 years?

  17. DJW Must go! Along with the ineffectual board and technical committee apparently filled with yes men. They must all go until we get this right.

  18. This man was Bangladesh coach.. Bangladesh ever play any dam football.. TTFF is a shitting waste

  19. Tom padna don’t worry with us and our ole talk. Enjoy the trini sunshine, get a tan, take a dip in the beach, eat a bake and shark, experience doubles, take a trip over to our sister isle. Just let your hair down and enjoy your vacation my friend.

  20. The whole cast of characters need to resign if they wish to save their reputations and preserve what credibility they have left. I know Alvin Henderson. I played football in St. Mary’s with Alvin. I played club football with him in Washington . We were very close friends. I cannot see Alvin Henderson being part of this farce that’s being played out before the world.

  21. Is there even a bigger idiot than david john williams???

  22. Quin C Biggs Thomas its official hmmm

  23. I won’t lie, I really feel sorry for this guy. Imagine having your first taste of our casual brutality at a press conference set up to introduce you to the country.

  24. Wt a load of shit I jus read.in other words djw hire his friend..

  25. I agree with Keith and that is all I have to say.

  26. Who we playing in the next two matches in true? I forgot. Somebody tell me nah.

  27. Lasana Liburd who is the guy standing behind DJW? He looks rather uncomfortable. He’s probably thinking what we typing here.

  28. Let me see if we have a good chance of winning the next two matches by March.
    Who we playing next? Guyana and Singapore?

  29. Listen, Tom probably did his maths:
    $50,000 USD per month (don’t hold me to that figure)
    January – March (3 months)
    $50,000 * 3= $150,000 USD
    Worst case scenario Tom walking home with a cool $150,000 USD if he doesn’t come up with a win by March. Plus hotel accommodation, the occasional bake and shark, doubles. I’ll take the paid vacation if TTFA offered me too.

  30. A pool of players let’s say from Brazil or one of the other top countries well that would have been a horse of a different colour.

  31. Long and short of it. You don’t build team moral by putting down or belittling the coach. Especially a new one when face with an unsurmountable task of coaching a team of players from the banana.

  32. Hear nah! I listened to his response on that question! I couldn’t stop laughing. He was 2ND pick out of 30 applications and affordable! ?????

  33. David CB Smith, you know i95.5 is the official radio station of the TTFA right?

  34. He’s got a credible resume Chica. I heard it being discussed on i95.5 this morning.

  35. What a criteria….. Nothing surprises any more….. For my country, and for my players, I hope I am proven wrong by this Coach selection…. Thanks for keeping us objectively informed Lasana Liburd……

  36. “Saintfiet, John-Williams said, was available and affordable…” Well of course he’s available AND affordable, no other football country with high aspirations will in their right mind hire this guy. Who is he? What’s his track record? What he doing here?

  37. Lasana Liburd you is ah boss first to buss the mark you really wired or you have good hackers from Russia do yyou have lotto numbers bro you on a role so we await his local assistants see the has already getting two friendllies Hart got none before those first two crucial games confirming that he was wired to fail by the TTFA but as an ardent fan im still hoping for the best he was given an ultimatium win his first two Hex games or go i wonder if that will apply to president of TTFA too who hired him good thing not cheap and cheap thing not good we get ah Rattans coach

  38. In my mind he made that guy feel like a piece of shit. I literally cringed when I heard him speak that way. Way to go to boost moral isn’t it?

    And it’s not that we have the best footballers either to work with.

  39. I thought David John-Williams public remarks at the press conference about the new coach about how he was not the first pick or in other words not ideal and that if he didn’t produce wins for the team by March which is a relatively short time when you think about it…that the new coach would be looking for a new job, was in very poor taste though. Crass even. A bit of class and diplomacy would have been much better.

  40. ??? this man . Classic dictator . I can’t believe those quotes , how classless but why am I surprised ?