Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet suggested he is not to blame for insinuations that defender Daneil Cyrus turned up smelling of alcohol at the team’s camp on New Year’s Day, despite his public comments on the matter.
On Sunday evening, Saintfiet told reporters that: “Two of the players came one and a half hours too late in camp and had still decent smell of alcohol around him (sic). That was Daneil Cyrus and Jomal Williams.
“Both were immediately sent home, back to party—but are replaced in the squad.”
Cyrus denied that he turned up at the team hotel smelling of alcohol and said he was offended by the suggestion while his aunt, Phyllis Andrews, said the W Connection defender had just one glass of Bailey’s that morning.
Saintfiet’s response was that he never specifically said Cyrus smelt of alcohol.
“I never said Daneil smelt of alcohol,” the Belgian coach told Wired868. “I said I smelt alcohol. I stood next to them and said I smelt alcohol…
“For me, the real issue was the late coming.”
Saintfiet explained that, if Cyrus had called before their noon check-in, he might have allowed him to enter camp. Tardiness, he said, was the main reason why he axed Cyrus and midfielder Jomal Williams from this week’s 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup playoffs.
The W Connection defender said he could not remember exactly when he told his teammate, Alvin Jones, that he had a flat tyre and was running late. But he believed it was before noon.
Saintfiet rubbished that claim.
“Daneil called at 12.31[pm],” said Saintfiet, “and, even then, he did not call one of us. He called a player who came to the manager and said I have Cyrus on the phone.
“And he said he would be 15 minutes [late] and he came an hour later.”
The Soca Warriors coach used striker Cornell Glen as an example of his flexibility as boss.
“[Glen] calls at 11[am] and said he had no babysitter… [Team manager] Azaad [Khan] called me and said: ‘What do we do?’ And I said let him come, bring the baby girl with [him] and let them come and pick [her] up afterwards…
“I am there to solve problems and Cornell Glen was the first one in camp [on New Year’s Day]. The baby girl was there for a few hours, [then] they picked her up. No problem. Because we trained only in the evening.
“If you have a problem, call. But you have to call before 12 o’ clock. Otherwise who proves you did not leave home before 12 o’ clock?”
Saintfiet spoke in detail about Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino’s absence from the team too. He explained that the midfield ace did ask to be included in the squad to face Suriname and Haiti this week. But that was after he had already turned down the chance to join the team in camp last month and play in Nicaragua.
“Kevin told me face to face: ‘Coach I have to go back to Orlando [on 22 December] to arrange some stuff. I am not available [to train]’. I said okay then you can come to Nicaragua. He said no.
“I asked him about the games against Suriname and Haiti and he told me very straight: ‘I am not motivated, I am not in shape, I do not want to play at the moment’.
“Later, he changed his vision and he said: ‘Yeah, okay I will play’. But when he told us the first moment ‘I am not motivated to play for the national team, I am not ready’ then…”
For the first time, Saintfiet revealed that San Jose Earthquakes winger Cordell Cato also made himself unavailable to represent his country.
Saintfiet stood by his decision to omit Molino—although he eventually made himself available—on the grounds that the gifted midfielder did not have a valid reason for skipping the team’s preparations in December and he needed to be consistent with his players.
“[Molino] was not interested to play Nicaragua. He wanted first to have the holiday off. And then because the president [David John-Williams] spoke with him then he said: ‘Yeah okay, I will be playing’… Why [would he be allowed to join] the current team to play without going to training when Jan-Michael [Williams] and Sean De Silva and Nathaniel [Garcia] have to be in camp?
“He is holidaying. He is not occupied with [his] club somewhere or anything else. By the way, [Cordell] Cato is exactly the same. He was also selected but he also said I prefer a holiday instead of training.”
Was Saintfiet concerned about burning bridges with key players, after his public criticisms?
The coach said he was only being honest. And he reiterated that he would never close the door on a player because of a previous disagreement.
“No, I cannot judge about [their reaction to my criticisms],” said Saintfiet. “I only see at the moment that these players are not committed to the national team. And it is sad because we play two important qualifiers for our country.
“But I cannot think in their position. I don’t know what the reasons are behind that. I don’t know the history and I even don’t want to think about that. I am occupied with what I have and I am very satisfied with the boys who I have. That’s my task—working with the guys who are there.”
Saintfiet also called on Wired868 to give him his due.
The Warriors coach pointed out that the website said Trinidad and Tobago’s 2-1 loss to Nicaragua was the country’s first ever defeat to the Central American nation. However, he suggested enough was not made of the fact that Trinidad and Tobago had never played in Nicaragua before. And enough credit was not given for the Warriors’ subsequent 3-1 win in Managua.
“Never in history [has] Trinidad and Tobago played in Nicaragua,” said Saintfiet. “[…] There are five meetings [for Trinidad and Tobago] against Nicaragua and I wrote history. I am the first one to win in Nicaragua… So [that is also] historic.”
Saintfiet has the opportunity to enhance his reputation this week when he leads a weakened team into competitive battle against Suriname and Haiti. Only one team will advance to the final Gold Cup play off round.
Trinidad and Tobago won their last five internationals against Suriname—between 1992 and 2012—and their last defeat to the Dutch-speaking nation came in a friendly on 5 May 1985.
Haiti are another prospect altogether.
Trinidad and Tobago won eight of 16 meetings with Haiti in this millennium with two draws and six losses. However, the two island republic’s last win against the Haitians was six years ago.
And, crucially, the last meeting between the two nations ended in a 1-0 win for the French-speaking islanders on 8 January 2016, which denied the Warriors a chance to compete at the Copa America Centenario competition.
Saintfiet might not have the country’s most decorated players with him, as he tries to avoid a repeat against Haiti. But, he insists, he has the most committed.
Trinidad and Tobago face Suriname from 7pm on 4 January before tackling Haiti from 5pm on 8 January. Both games will be held at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Trinidad and Tobago 20-man Gold Cup playoff squad)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars);
Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Paul Stars), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—Korea Republic), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kallen—Estonia), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica);
Midfielders: Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Alvin Jones, Hughtun Hector (both W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Nathan Lewis, Tyrone Charles (both San Juan Jabloteh);
Forwards: Akeem Roach (Club Sando), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Cornell Glen (Ozone FC Bengalaru—India).
Technical staff: Tom Saintfiet (head coach), Russell Latapy (assistant coach), Jamaal Shabazz (assistant coach), Lukas Wojciak (goalkeeper coach), Riedoh Berdien (trainer), Dr Terence Babwah (doctor), Dave Isaac (paramedic), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Shaun Fuentes (press officer), Azaad Khan (interim manager).