New Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence will take seven debutantes into battle on Friday night as he makes his first outing as Soca Warriors boss in a friendly international against Barbados at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The match kicks off at 7pm while gates open from 4pm. Tickets are priced at TT$50 (adults) and TT$20 (children) and will only be available at the Ato Boldon Stadium on game day.
Lawrence will be without the services of experienced goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and central defender Carlyle Mitchell, who are both injured, while wingers Nathan Lewis and Tyrone Charles are away on Caribbean Football Union (CFU) duty with San Juan Jabloteh.
Defenders Radanfah Abu Bakr and Julius James were also declared unavailable. Abu Bakr flew out to secure a professional deal in Estonia while James is on trial in the United States.
Former international defender Seon Power also joined the squad in training, as he tries to regain fitness after almost a year of inactivity since he left Thailand.
In place of the veteran absentees, Lawrence selected several fresh faces as Ma Pau Stars defender Taryk Sampson, W Connection left back Jesus Perez, Club Sando midfielders Jared London and Akeem Humphrey, St Ann’s Rangers winger Jomoul Francois, Police FC forward Jameel Perry and Defence Force poacher Jamille Boatswain are all set for senior international debuts.
The teenaged Sampson represented Trinidad and Tobago at the recently concluded CONCACAF Under-20 Championships while Humphrey and Perez both played at Under-20 level two years ago. But none were previously selected by a senior coach.
Of course, it is a maiden territory for Lawrence and his assistant coach Stern John as well.
The former Everton FC and Wigan Athletic assistant coach said he is looking forward to seeing the output from his players after three weeks together on the training ground.
“I think it’s going to be exciting for the players,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “I think the work we have done over the time should have prepared them for a game of this magnitude.
“I am looking forward to it and to see how much the boys have taken on board over the past couple of weeks we have been working.”
The Barbados National Senior Team, which took up the game with barely a week’s notice after Suriname pulled out, are ranked 156th in the world by FIFA while Trinidad and Tobago are 84th.
The game will be the first meeting between the two nations since the Warriors romped to a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win in Port of Spain on 11 October 2011.
W Connection midfielder Hughtun Hector, who came off the bench to score the final goal against Barbados, is one of two survivors in the playing squad alongside goalkeeper Marvin Phillip. Lawrence’s assistant coach, Stern John, captained Trinidad and Tobago that day.
The real competition lies ahead though as the Warriors host Panama and Mexico in pivotal Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers on March 24 and 28 respectively.
Lawrence said he will use the Barbados outing to give his local-based players an opportunity to stake their claim for the competitive games later in the month.
“The idea is to make sure is that everybody gets a good portion of the game,” said Lawrence, “because I think it’s only fair with the work being done, to give them the opportunity to present themselves and say to myself and say to Trinidad and Tobago that they are ready for selection come March 24th and 28th.”
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will begin selling tickets for this month’s World Cup qualifiers from Friday at Lotto outlets throughout the country.
Tickets for the Panama and Mexico contests, which both kick off from 7pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, are available for TT$300 (covered) and TT$160 (uncovered) from March 10 to 17. Prices will rise to TT$350 (covered) and TT$200 (uncovered) from March 18 to match day.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia Utd), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars);
Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Pau Stars), Daneil Cyrus (Unattached), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Taryk Sampson (Ma Pau Stars), Alvin Jones, Maurice Ford, Jesus Perez, Tristan Hodge (all W Connection);
Midfielders: Jared London (Club Sando), Leston Paul, Sean De Silva (both Central FC), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Jomoul Francois (St Ann’s Rangers), Darren Mitchell, Keron Cummings (both Central FC), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Akeem Humphrey, Akeem Roach (both Club Sando);
Strikers: Jameel Perry (Police FC), Jamille Boatswain (Defence Force).