Saunders quits as Central exodus continues; Sharks hold Stars despite turning up with 14 players

Gems at Lajoya

The exodus continued at defending Pro League champions, Central FC, as team coach Dale Saunders joined the raft of departures from the “Couva Sharks” in the last month.

It meant that former World Cup 2006 forward and Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team assistant coach Stern John made his debut as Central head coach last night in a league affair against North East Stars at the Arima Velodrome.

Photo: Central FC coach Dale Saunders (right) signals to his squad while San Juan Jabloteh coach Keith Jeffrey looks on during 2015/16 Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

And John might be reasonably satisfied with his first outing in charge as the Sharks, despite showing up with just 14 players, bit back late to hold the Stars 1-1.

Former National Under-20 midfielder Duane Muckette grabbed a goal in his first match with the new-look Stars since returning after brief stints in the United States and Portugal.

Muckette was joined in central midfield by fellow debutants Kevon Goddard and Densill Theobald. Goddard moved to Stars from W Connection while Theobald, a 2006 World Cup player, spent the last season at Morvant Caledonia United and Mumbai FC in India.

But the threesome to could not help Stars to the three points that would have taken them clear at the top of the table, as, not for the first time, Central proved tough opposition despite their internal issues.

Central captain and utility player Keston George and midfield live-wire Nathaniel Garcia were also absent last night and believed to be seeking moves away from the club while veteran 2006 World Cup player Carlos Edwards has not played since blasting managing director Brent Sancho for his alleged dishonesty and poor treatment of players.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international Carlos Edwards (right) in action against Mexico.

Antigua and Barbuda internationals Vashami Allen, 20, and Walter Prince, 22, have returned to their homelands. Allen, a versatile defender, said he was never paid in his five-month stint at Central.

“The first sign [that there was a financial issue] was when the first month passed and I realised nothing was really happening,” Allen told the Antigua Observer. “I decided to just grind it out and leave that alone but then it just got overbearing so I just came back to my home country…

“I was excited because I was waiting for this all of my life but in the structure, when I got there, I was excited to get on the field and what not. And then behind the scenes there are all sorts of hiccups, so…”

Prince also said he held out for as long as he could and shared his concerns with Sancho. But he was not encouraged by the response from the club and eventually gave up.

“I still tried to grind it out because, to me, it’s not all about the money but about getting to a next level,” said Prince. “I had spoken to other experienced players about the situation and they told me to give it a chance and try to grind out a bit more. I tried that but after a while it was really overbearing with salaries not being paid and I couldn’t live like that.

“The owner, to me, doesn’t really respond to players quickly and understand our situation and that we are not Trinidadians.”

Last month, Sancho penned a letter to inform his players that the club would not pay salaries until they received outstanding subventions from the Ministry of Sport and “at this point I cannot confirm when this will occur.”

Photo: Central FC managing director Brent Sancho’s letter to his squad.

The Central boss claimed that subventions had not been paid for June, July and August. However, Sancho told his players that they were expected to show up for work and operate as usual.

“I would like to remind all players,” stated Sancho, “that non payment of your salary does not excuse you from training or playing in games, where selected…”

Last night, John had just 14 Central players available with veterans Jason Marcano, Sean De Silva, Jem Gordon and Kaydion Gabriel the only remnants of the squad that won three titles in a row. But Gordon, the Tobago utility player, ensured that Central did not leave Arima empty-handed, producing a late equalising item.

The Sharks, who have only conceded a League-low three goals so far this season, sit in fifth at present and, with two games in hand, are seven points shy of leaders, W Connection.

Stars trail Connection by only goal difference despite playing one game less.

In yesterday’s other Pro League affair, Nathan Lewis scored his first goal of the season and defender Jesus Perez conjured up a late winner as San Juan Jabloteh edged Point Fortin Civic 2-1 in Mahaica Oval.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh winger Nathan Lewis (left) terrorises Cibao FC right back Ernesto Trinidad during the Caribbean Club Championship final on 21 May 2017 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Civic utility player Glen Sutton, who rejoined the club from Central last season, scored the home team’s short-lived equaliser.

With the result, Jabloteh climbed to fourth while Civic remain seventh but they can be overtaken by Morvant Caledonia who clash with St Ann’s Rangers from 4pm today at the St Augustine Secondary School ground.

Pro League results

(Friday 8 September)

Point Fortin Civic 1 (Glen Sutton 69), San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Nathan Lewis 49, Jesus Perez 75) at Mahaica Oval;

North East Stars 1 (Duane Muckette 59), Central FC 1 (Jem Gordon 88) at Arima Velodrome.

Upcoming fixture

(Sunday 10 September)

St Ann’s Rangers v Morvant/Caledonia Utd, 4pm, St Augustine Secondary ground.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at 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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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    No money no love in the pro league all over right now.

  2. I admire central to rally there players to results king ability is questionable poor coaching

  3. RUMOR HAS IT THAT Nathaniel Garcia is seeking a move away fron central fc to point civic but is being denied such by brent sancho

  4. It was “never” a true professional league

  5. Get on board Lasana, you have what it takes to restructure and turn things around… My honest opinion.

    • Thanks. Maybe one day the opportunity would come. But for me to even consider it, there would have be to enough people on the outside keeping a close eye on things. I feel like it is important to have an independent voice now and I don’t want to abdicate that responsibility.

    • You have revealed so much through your articulate, sequential, up to date and thought provoking blogs. That in itself shows that you’re well on top of, not only the everyday operation of football in this country both at domestic and national level, but the administration of sport on a whole. Accountability has indeed been lacking and it reflects through the outcome of performance! Keep up the great job at making these pertinent, bold statements of fact!!

  6. Dale and Moses stuck this out very long, I don’t thing Moses could continue pulling bull and using his car to carry equipment across T&T much longer.

    This is his 2nd stint with Central FC

  7. After all the mismanagement of olayers, personnel and funds, this ship was bound to sink 1st.

    You cannot build anything on lies, and dishonesty.

    Soon the so-called founder and self-appointed defender/snake-oil salesman / insurance salesman / wannabe associated to the EPL director of Central FC will be hear with some new lies to reproach this article

  8. Many countries have requirements for foreign businesses to support teams and leagues. We cannot rely on the public and local sponsors at all. They prefer to support T-20. The crowds are into it because there is entertainment there. No off the field entertainment, no crowd, limited sponsorship and this is what you have, a failing league.

  9. Dale is a good man. He wouldn’t quit just so. Wheels are coming off over there. Foreign players gone. Now the Coach. SMH.

  10. This is the last season for this so called ‘pro league’. 17 years and you still depending on gov’t to pay your way. Those in charge of this league should be ashamed of themselves. Secondary Schools football league showing on TV but no one knows about the ‘pro league’ games. Shame shame

  11. Sad sign when Pro League teams can’t pay their players without government subvention. That is not a professional league because the league is not self-sustainable. They’d best revert to a semi-pro structure that would allow the players to work. Sad, but it’s the reality.

  12. Wow!!! I also heard that Prowler left Rangers too…is that correct?? And Elton John left North East Starz??? And where’s Javon Sample now??? Not with Jabloteh either??? Seems like real clubs getting licks boi… but I’d sure like to know whats going on with those peeps

  13. The universe only serves you what you deserve.

  14. One thing I’d commend Central FC on is their ability to get results no matter which player is put on the pitch. We will see if this continues after Saunders’ departure.
    But clearly some people within that organisation know how to put a good team together.

  15. Are other clubs having these problems as well.

    • Yes. The Pro League is in real trouble.

    • Looks like they might have to restructure the league system in this country and go back to semi pro. And with this it will be easier for a promotion /relagation format from the very top to the bottom. Sometimes we need to take one step back to 3 steps forward

    • If we go back to semi pro or worse yet amateur football, then that will be it for TNT football. There is absolutely no way our players could play semi pro football and even step on the field with the central americans who play fully professional football!!!!

    • Our problem in tnt is coaching and administration. We want to compete against usa, costa rica and mexico but our youth system, teaching of the game at ages 5+, coaching and scouting is not near to these countries. Besides Dwight Yorke in 1992, which other player have we produced has reached the heights of champions league football and became a house hold name arouns the world? Yes we are a small nation but thats not an excuse, A prime example of small nations producing quality is the dutch an their Ajax academy

    • We got staduims all over tnt still puzzled why academies arent set up at each national stadium where youths with potential can be trained, fed and taught about the fundamentals of the game. They can get a education and be exposed in a football environment where they can go pro by the age of 14. With all of our resources tnt suppose to be the mecca of youth football in the caribbean where teams flock to scout an carry to Europe an north/south America….but you see people with a mentality of how much money i want to make from this, not putting youth football first and the crab in a barrel vibe..tnt will always be the whipping boys of fifa youth games and the laughing stock of concacaf..

    • Len Archie everything that can be wrong about our football is wrong. From the players with their woeful attitude to the sub-standard coaches to the incompetent TTFA to the selfish and greedy private sector to governments (past and present) that don’t have a clue and seem to be very disinterested with football to a society that doesn’t appreciate hard work only partying, corruption and a band wagonist attitude.

    • I totally agree with you. We want champagne taste results but have sweet drink mentally. Me personally, I don’t get surprised by the trashing we get in youth games against quality opposition. Just like an exam, when you prepare to fail what other result you expect to get?…if I had the money an resources at my disposal defiantly it will be invested in a high quality youth program. From the the age of 5 you are integrated in a system of ball control, football fundamentals, tactics, fitness/eating/living, being a professional, education and sports management. How can you go around tht scout players train them for 2 months then expect them to play against Mexican players who live breathe an do football 6 days a week in their academies? We need these systems in place here, We got the facilities…bit as you listed which is true…its attitude, sub standard coaching selfishness and greed

  16. Not following… if none of the clubs have received the subvention for the last couple of months, how come Central is the only one with this situation?
    Are players/coaches elsewhere getting paid or not getting paid and just sucking it up?

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