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Lawrence: I am out! TTFA board in uproar as DJW accused of bungling deal for new T&T coach

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is believed to be in crisis mode after World Cup 2006 hero and ex-Everton FC assistant coach Dennis Lawrence pulled out of a deal to be Men’s National Senior Team head coach, just 48 hours after both parties agreed in a principle.

The breaking point, according to Lawrence’s agent Mike Berry, was termination clauses inserted into the deal on Thursday as well as the TTFA’s failure to allay the prospective coach’s concerns.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago defender Dennis Lawrence (right) and coach Leo Beenhakker have a word in Manama on 17 November 2005. Lawrence scored the only goal as T&T edged Bahrain 1-0 that night to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. (Copyright Daily Post)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago defender Dennis Lawrence (right) and coach Leo Beenhakker have a word in Manama on 17 November 2005.
Lawrence scored the only goal as T&T edged Bahrain 1-0 that night to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
(Copyright Daily Post)

“We have a very disappointed chap who spoke to [Belgium National Senior Team head coach Roberto] Martinez this morning,” Berry told Wired868. “[Martinez] was happy to welcome him back into the [Belgium] fold and he is getting back on with his career. He is very disappointed not to get the chance to do [the Trinidad and Tobago job] his way.”

Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to get comment from TTFA president David John-Williams and technical committee chairman Dexter Skeene.

However, a TTFA board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was furious to learn that the deal collapsed and revealed that an emergency board meeting was called for this evening. However the meeting was subsequently cancelled.

The TTFA issued a press release this evening, which promised to name its new coach on Monday. There was no word as to whether it would be Lawrence. It was a far cry from the optimistic mood on Wednesday night, as the two parties on either side of the Atlantic Ocean celebrated a deal to make Lawrence the two island republic’s top football coach.

“On Wednesday night, we agreed in principle [over the phone] the basic terms [of the job],” said Berry, “which is salary, length of contract, bonuses and so on. It was all systems go.”

The deal on offer that Wednesday night was what the TTFA felt should be given to the next Soca Warriors coach. But it is worth pointing out that, up to that point, that person looked like being W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, who was recommended for the position by the technical committee.

Photo: W Connection owner David John-Williams (second from left), coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier (centre) and defender Joel Russell (far left) say a prayer of thanks after securing the 2013/14 Pro League trophy at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection owner David John-Williams (second from left), coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier (centre) and defender Joel Russell (far left) say a prayer of thanks after securing the 2013/14 Pro League trophy at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

John-Williams, of course, is W Connection’s co-owner and he recused himself from Wednesday’s deliberations because of his close, personal relationship with Fevrier.

Once, John-Williams returned to the room and learnt that Lawrence—and not Fevrier—was the board’s choice, he allegedly suggested a caveat. The contract, said the TTFA president, should have a termination clause. And, after their discussions Lawrence, the board agreed that there should be performance appraisals added to the deal.

As far as Lawrence’s team was concerned, it was already a done deal and they only asked the board to give them until 8am [TT time] so he could resign from his two-year contract as Belgium National Senior Team scout.

“I said let us get Roberto’s blessing because it was only right to let him know he was losing a member of staff,” said Berry. “We spoke to Roberto [Martinez] at noon English time. He was absolutely delighted and happy to endorse Lawrence. He said he would help as much as possible—except if [the two nations] met in Russia [at the 2018 World Cup]!”

Lawrence and Berry sat back and waited to hear from the TTFA. But, two hours later, there had been no contact from the local football body and a call to Skeene went straight to voicemail.

Wired868 understands that, at the time, Skeene was trying to engineer clauses that would satisfy John-Williams but not put off Lawrence.

Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Berry, who was unaware of the late developments, emailed Skeene and John-Williams and revealed that Roberto Martinez wanted to issue a press release congratulating Lawrence on his new post and explaining to the public why he rated the former Defence Force and Swansea defender so highly.

Lawrence played under Martinez at Swansea and then was a member of his coaching staff at Wigan Athletic, Everton and Belgium.

John-Williams, according to Berry, replied to the email within minutes to say: No press release please.

At 10am, Skeene phoned Lawrence to say there would be amendments to the initial deal but he could not say what those were.

Wired868 understands that Skeene phoned one ex-Trinidad and Tobago international for advice on performance markers for the contract. John-Williams allegedly wanted Lawrence to deliver either nine or 10 points from the CONCACAF Hex or be sacked. But Skeene allegedly felt that was unreasonable.

The advisor suggested instead that perhaps the FIFA rankings could be used as a gauge—but it must work both ways. A drop by a certain number of places could prompt a review while there would be a reward if Trinidad and Tobago climbed the rankings.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Radanfah Abu Bakr (centre) walks away while Haiti players celebrate their 1-0 win 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 defender Radanfah Abu Bakr (centre) walks away while Haiti players celebrate their 1-0 win 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)

Three hours after their brief conversation, Skeene told Lawrence that the contract was on the way.

“There were clauses that I never came across before in my 20-odd years as an agent,” said Berry.

The two clauses that stood out, according to Berry, were that Lawrence could be terminated if Trinidad and Tobago: (a) did not have a 40 percent success rate on a presumed annual basis; or (b) suffered a six point drop in the FIFA rankings.

“So if, God forbid, we lose against Panama and Mexico [in March] and we drop six points in the FIFA rankings as a result,” said Berry, “then his contract can be terminated at four months’ notice! Now bear in mind, Dennis has a two-year contract in Belgium. Those clauses were unacceptable.

“And not only were they in the termination section but they were under the heading of gross misconduct. So if he was sacked for one of those clauses, he would not only be sacked for non-performance but for gross conduct. That could destroy his career. How could he sign that?!”

John-Williams emailed Berry on Thursday evening and ask Lawrence to call him, which the 42-year-old coach did.

The TTFA president did not congratulate Lawrence or say that he was looking forward to working with him. Instead, he simply wanted to know his choice for assistant coaches.

Photo: Former 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: Former 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)

Wired868 understands that Lawrence gave John-Williams a six-man shortlist, which included two English coaches, one Dutch coach and locals: Stern John, Angus Eve and Hutson “Barber” Charles. Lawrence intended to interview the six coaches within the next week.

John, an assistant coach at Pro League champions Central FC, and Eve, the Club Sando head coach, were described as bright, upcoming coaches. While Charles, who worked with Lawrence at Defence Force, offered an immediate knowledge of the current player pool since he worked as Hart’s assistant for the past three years and served as head coach for a year and a half before then.

Lawrence also wanted his own goalkeeping coach, sports scientist and match analysis manager. But the Warriors coach-in-waiting had a question for John-Williams too.

What did the TTFA mean by a 40 percent success rate? Did that include draws, since a solitary point could be the difference between qualification and failure?

John-Williams, according to Berry, told Lawrence he did not know and would get back on to him. But they did not hear from the TTFA president again.

Berry spoke to Skeene on Thursday night too. He pointed to the clauses and suggested that, at the least, Lawrence should have the security of a 12-month pay off—even if the TTFA decided to sack him in the first week.

Photo: Former Everton FC coach Dennis Lawrence. (Copyright Liverpool Echo)
Photo: Former Everton FC coach Dennis Lawrence.
(Copyright Liverpool Echo)

The football body, said Berry, ought to show some faith in a coach that was leaving a job to come and work for Trinidad and Tobago. Skeene, Barry alleged, said that was a reasonable request and promised to get back to them.

Neither John-Williams nor Skeene contacted them again on Thursday night. So, Berry sent an email to both TTFA officials and went to bed.

This morning, there was no emailed response from the TTFA and Lawrence’s enthusiasm had now become a deep unease. The defender rang up a few friends and associates for advice—including 2006 World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker—and then made his decision.

“It smelt fishy and he was very uncomfortable about the lack of response and the lack of courtesy,” said Berry. “And he said: ‘I am out.’ Perhaps if the clauses were in the performance appraisal section and not the termination section or if there was more security for him in the contract…

“He was also concerned about the lack of reference from the TTFA to the long term development of Trinidad and Tobago football, which he felt was equally important to the current World Cup campaign.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team playmaker Che Benny (left) gets a high five from substitute Brandon Semper during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team playmaker Che Benny (left) gets a high five from substitute Brandon Semper during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“He will do his damnedest to get us to the Russia World Cup but he told them from the start that he didn’t just want to be a quick fix.”

And so, Berry alerted the TTFA of his client’s change of heart, via an email to John-Williams, which read:

“In the absence of a response and on reflection, Dennis has decided to reject your offer of the position of national coach. Unfortunately, the philosophy of your technical committee, board and yourself do not match Dennis’ philosophy for Trinidad and Tobago football at this time.

“Dennis has asked me to convey his best wishes for the future success of Trinidad and Tobago football.”

Lawrence’s decision stunned board members who had not been kept abreast of developments since the Wednesday night meeting. As far as they were concerned, the board had already decided upon their coach and the only thing left for John-Williams and Skeene to do was get his signature on a piece of paper.

One source wondered aloud if the TTFA president had sabotaged the process. There is no concrete evidence to support that suggestion at this point in time.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet's maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016. (Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet’s maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)

“How can a clause lead to all these problems?” asked the source. “That is a matter of simple negotiation. Something has gone wrong somewhere.”

The TTFA board convened an emergency meeting this evening, presumably to discuss the deal. According to the constitution, only the board can hire or fire coaches. However, the meeting was scrapped—presumably because the late notice meant there was unlikely to be quorum.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, although the majority of the technical committee voted for Fevrier, the board members decided that Lawrence was the man they wanted.

Wired868 understands that there were five votes for Lawrence and two for former England World Cup defender and Central FC and San Juan Jabloteh coach Terry Fenwick. John-Williams’ two vice-presidents, Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis, were the only members who voted for Fevrier, since the TTFA president had recused himself.

“The board decided that Dexter [Skeene] and the president should take the lead in signing the deal [with Lawrence],” said the anonymous board member. “The enthusiasm for Dennis is great and he shouldn’t let [the clauses] stymie him.

“There was no number two [for if we didn’t get Lawrence]. We agreed it would be him.”

Photo: Former Everton FC manager Roberto Martinez (second from right) speaks to assistants Dennis Lawrence (far right) and Graeme Jones during a file photo.
Photo: Football manager Roberto Martinez (second from right) speaks to assistants Dennis Lawrence (far right) and Graeme Jones during their spell at Everton FC.

After the initial interview, Berry revealed that Skeene phoned and apologised for the lack of response by the TTFA. But he was unable to relay whether there was a change of position by the football body on the controversial clauses.

This evening’s board meeting appeared to be the last chance for Lawrence. But there is still hope that John-Williams reopened discussions with the former Malick schoolboy, who was on Wigan’s coaching staff when they Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final.

“Roberto [Martinez] said don’t close the door totally [on Trinidad and Tobago],” said Berry. “He was in a similar position once when he left the Swansea job. It seems unlikely now but he said to leave the door open…

“It is not that we are against performance evaluations but you have to give him a reasonable time to do his job. Do a review after 12 months but not from day one!

“They have missed out on a top class guy, never mind a good coach. If Roberto Martinez rates him so highly, surely Trinidad and Tobago should as well.”

Twelve years ago, Lawrence’s headed goal against Bahrain in Manama won Trinidad and Tobago a historic berth at the Germany 2006 World Cup. But, months earlier, the lanky defender showcased his skills on the ground as he tore forward on the overlap to score a decisive item in a 2-0 win over Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Dennis Lawrence (left) wins a header from Sweden forward Henrik Larsson during the Germany 2006 World Cup at the Dortmund Stadium. (Copyright AFP 2017)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Dennis Lawrence (left) wins a header from Sweden forward Henrik Larsson during the Germany 2006 World Cup at the Dortmund Stadium.
(Copyright AFP 2017)

The Panama triumph was the Warriors’ first competitive outing under Leo Beenhakker and it revitalised the nation’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

Should Lawrence agree terms with the TTFA, his first opponent—on 24 March 2017—will be Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Wired868 asked John-Williams for an update on the vacant position on Men’s National Senior Team head coach and whether he was trying to sign Lawrence or discourage him from signing. The football president declined comment but promised that the TTFA would issue a press release later.

“All I can say is maybe your source on the board can answer that text,” said John-Williams. “I have nothing against you if you choose a particular road… All I am saying is don’t lie on me.”

The other coaches on the TTFA’s shortlist were: Francisco Maturana, Fenwick and Fevrier.

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).

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016. (Copyright TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

TTFA statement:

“The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) wishes to advise that the announcement of the newly appointed Head Coach of the Men’s Senior National Team will take place on Monday 23 January 2017.

“The TTFA has noted the large public interest in the selection of our new National Senior Mens coach and we wish to assure the our supporters and stakeholders, the TTFA Technical Committee is working assiduously to complete the current process, to ensure the most appropriate selection, in the best interest of the National Senior Men’s Team Programme and our ongoing the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.”

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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283 comments

  1. I say Trinidad and Tobago disband the national team for five years, this includes the TTFA

  2. This is a sad and unfortunate moment for TT football because Dennis was always about growth and development in football and clearly all the immediate stakeholders can’t see pass world cup…you clowns lost a remarkable coach and patriot

  3. Lasana Liburd is there a motion to vote no confidence in DJW and force the board to get him out?

  4. I should drop my CV in the morning any body want to be my assistant. Because I can’t see a real coach taking up this job under does circumstances

  5. Panama – Manama- now tantana?

    Who betting against Tele Santana fuh de next coach?

    Nutten in dis country serious, nutten!

  6. I not even going to waste time getting vex. No surprises here…..nothing to see folks….nothing to see. Just move along….normal TTFA ballsing it up…..

  7. What really wrong with this DJW. Something is definitely wrong with him

  8. Anybody willing to go and protest outside the ttfa office , #DJWOut

  9. Monday will be two months since Hart was sacked.

  10. Lasana Liburd u really over doing it eh brother!! Really over doing it that’s all i will tell you!!

  11. By the time they appoint a coach, the TTFA would have wasted two months, roughly half the time between our last WCQ and the next one.

  12. Even a blind man could see ever since John Williams took over as TTFF president football in TNT took a turn for the worse… Even before he became president he has always been getting himself into problems with both TTFF and TTCB in the past … He needs to resign… What took others years to build is taking just months for John Williams to destroy …. Smh .. He has to go!!!

  13. Why would they even consider using FIFA rankings as a gauge? You could rise or fall without even kicking a ball due to some other country making phenomenal gains.

  14. Lasana Liburd the way Lawrence sounded, the man is not only looking at the world Cup, but also to the development of our football. He is also bringing a qualified team with him as well.

  15. Football is a business now and is sport which our country has been held ransom by businessmen looking to exploit our country for their own personal gain and not what’s best for the sports and sportsmen alike

  16. Tyron Flores have you read dis caca…that man David John-Williams will be the ruination of TT football

  17. Lasana Liburd very good article. I read it in its entirety. Love your work meh brother. I am not surprised by the level of unprofessionalism of the entire TTFA body. It is also very embarrassing for them to treat a fellow football patriot in that manner, by not valuing his work, expertise, experience and competence. Lawrence is right to express that he is not a “quick fix” but is willing to work on development of our football for the long term. Sad, but I’m still not surprised…. #bless

  18. Djw giving us Hart attack
    Like his Hart not in the game

  19. TTFA administration deserve a red card and a five year ban from footballing activities. I thought the ttfa had our football at interest when they hired stephen hart, our football had an identity with him, you fire him for no good reason. You hire a coach that I as a football freak never even heard of,he aint last long. Now allyuh trying to eff up one of we own boys career, he working with the Belgium national you think he bound to quit that job to come back here. It have alot of people in position and just blind.

  20. He related to Dave Cameron by attitude and deeds

  21. I give up…just eff it! It’s too much. Just when we were thinking the technical committee was growing a pair.

  22. Join me in the DJW out chants!

  23. The problem is……even if the Dennis Lawrence appointment were to be salvaged, EVERYONE….including Dennis…will know that the appointment does not have the full support (if any at all) of the President of the TTFA. To that end, any appointment other than his preferred candidate will likely be subject to the same lack of support that the previous coach(s) received from this President.

    On the other hand, if the President gets to have his way and SFC is appointed as Head Coach, then he’ll have the support of the President……but the footballing public at large…not to mention the Technical Committee and members of the Board that did not vote for SFC…will quite rightly question the merit of his appointment.

    The President’s alleged actions have not done anyone any favors….least of all his preferred candidate.

  24. This guy called DJW! Please get him away from our national teams. He is a cancer!

  25. Does any one know if the w connection coaches contracts have clauses that are similar or the same as what was offered in the contract to Dennis Lawrence.

  26. As i said before DJW will feed us the the bread the devil kneed. Well is the same board that put him in the position so all yah take that in you pwafun.

  27. ..In the end, nobody wins. And the real loser here is football..

  28. there is so many things wrong with this statement. we will start with having an agent and yet the negotiation process is treated with such indifference, sabotage and callousness – last minute termination clauses,

    “The breaking point, according to Lawrence’s agent Mike Berry, was termination clauses inserted into the deal on Thursday as well as the TTFA’s failure to allay the prospective coach’s concerns.”

    so is it not common sense to never quit one job before you have sealed and signed paperwork for a second>>>???

    “As far as Lawrence’s team was concerned, it was already a done deal and they only asked the board to give them until 8am [TT time] so he could resign from his two-year contract as Belgium National Senior Team scout.”

    this article is so tedious of a process and hard/[painful to read eh/ it puts my stomach in knots. there was never any good intention here. full of ugly

    ““How can a clause lead to all these problems?” asked the source. “That is a matter of simple negotiation. Something has gone wrong somewhere.””

    simple. sane people dont insert clauses in a contract after it has been tabled, offered , and agreed on principle. Clauses are inserted long before an offer is made

    sigh.

  29. Just let the man hire his partner nah so all this foolishness could stop. Them really good yes because he will sabotage anybody who he does not want.

  30. Somebody PLLEEEASE!!!!….get rid ah da big fat stinking crappo!!!!!!…rell feddup ah this mthrfkr!!!!!

  31. Lasana Kurtwyn they just confirmed MA Pau vs Army in A to starting at 8.
    All other games already in progress Kurtwyn

  32. Kurtwyn, there were changes to the Pro League schedule and I don’t know where to point you I’m afraid.

  33. Lasana Liburd is there a pro league game today? and if so which is the big game?

  34. That is a true third world mentality. Shaking my head in shame.

  35. hahahahahaha “We eh business nah” Them really good yes.

  36. Come on man, carnival in the air and its Friday. Who wants to sit and talk about the next National Coach of Trinidad and Tobago? Who cares that the entire country is longing for a solution to this crisis? Certainly not the TTFA!

  37. Come on man, carnival in the air and its Friday. Who wants to sit and talk about the next National Coach of Trinidad and Tobago? Who cares that the entire country is longing for a solution to this crisis? Certainly not the TTFA!

  38. Watch nah allyuh this whole fiasco if true shows how unprofessional our Association is ,is it a pallor these people feel they running. If I was Dennis I would turn my back and never look back, those terms are atrocious and no professional with a secured long term job will leave there job for those terms for what the sake of patriotism. Hell No! TTFA allyuh feel is a piper coach allyuh hiring no wonder they could only attract people like Santifet or what ever his name was because from the start they don’t have good intentions. I don’t know about you all but I really tired of this association and it unwarranted controversies. If you all don’t know what you doing and can’t administrate then get a consultant who knows to advise you. Lasana boy these articles does raise my blood pressure brother. As for DJW he will do what he have to do to get what he want, won’t be surprise when they announce Stuartie come Monday.

  39. If people are feel overidden by the President then they need to resign.

    Problem with Trinis is we keep accepting the wrong thing and saying “doh study dat”

    I don’t know how they could give an assurance of Monday though. How could they assure that ?
    Smh.