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Kelvin: We weren’t good enough for Russia; but DJW, players and coach made things worse

The final nail was hammered in the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team’s coffin in Panama.

To be brutally honest we were not good enough administratively, technically or tactically and we lacked the level of discipline required to qualify for a World Cup finals. This is not a new problem and Trinidad and Tobago football will continue to be terribly frustrating if we do not get serious.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to midfielder Hashim Arcia (left) during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 24 August 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

This blog will be 25 pages long if I go through the games against Honduras and Panama meticulously. So I will highlight a few defining moments.

(Honduras)

I just couldn’t believe the lack of urgency and the sloppiness in our play. This was a hugely important game and this is when I expect the so called ‘big players’ to set the tone. But we were not sharp in the mind.

After seven minutes, Honduras played a cross into the box and I would expect goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams to gobble that up and set the tone, just be nice and solid. He spilled it, it’s not cleared and Honduras score.

Yes, players make mistakes and I’m sure Jan-Michael would be bitterly disappointed with the role he played in it. Having conceded first and knowing the importance of the game, I expected a reaction.

We had a really good chance to test their keeper with a header from Sheldon Bateau but his effort was poor. I then expected to see us up the tempo. But we looked so disorganised that it beggared belief. Every time Honduras came forward, they looked like scoring and they duly did in the 16th minute. We didn’t do enough to stop Romell Quito’s cross from the left flank and Honduras were 2-0 up in no time.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (left) walks past coach Dennis Lawrence during World Cup 2018 qualifying action against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Honduras were in control and if I’m honest we never looked like we had the desire or know-how to win the game. Of course we scored the penalty but we were inept and deserved nothing from the performance we conjured. It was nothing short of embarrassing.

(Panama)

Another poor performance and I question our focus and concentration here. We had a corner but yet we conceded 20 seconds later. Our defenders were not concentrating; they were watching the game and not switched on to potential danger.

I blame the coach, defenders and goalkeeper. It used to infuriate me when we had a corner and my defenders were just watching the game and not sensing danger. This tells me you are not concentrating and lack focus.

The second goal is also very avoidable. Again we don’t do enough to stop the cross but what I find inexplicable is that Carlyle Mitchell had more than enough time to have his body shape right. Instead he is facing his own goal and is so unaware of his positioning that he heads it in his own net.

It was a technical error that shouldn’t happen at this level, especially when you have enough time to get into a position where you can see the ball and the attacker. We could’ve easily been beaten 5-0 in this game.

Photo: Panama forward Abdiel Arroyo (left) squeezes his shot past Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell (right) for his team’s third and final goal during their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Panama City, on 5 September 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Bienvenido Velasco)

I think people need to realise that qualifying for a World Cup finals is no mean feat and needs serious commitment from the players and staff. In 2006, we had a very experienced squad. Players who were playing at a decent level and who had been through a couple World Cup campaigns. We were also very disciplined and had a top coach in Leo Beenhakker.

There was not one incident from the 2006 squad regarding discipline. But yet we had incidents in this squad with Cordell Cato, for instance.

I just cannot understand how a player could not be focused and committed for something as life-changing as World Cup qualification. He let his teammates and the fans down. It should be a lesson learned for the boy.

Our campaign was doomed from the onset and the baffling decisions by David John-Williams also didn’t help. He sacks Stephen Hart and hires Tom Saintfiet. He then undermines Saintfiet publicly and hires Dennis Lawrence, while ignoring Terry Fenwick who was—without question—the best person available to give us a chance of qualifying.

DJW must do better and, if he is not up to the job of getting football organised, he needs to resign. I ask the question: What is his plan? How is he going to structure Trinidad and Tobago football to become a CONCACAF power?

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

I know what needs to happen for sure and I have extended an olive branch to him. But he obviously thinks he knows what he is doing.

It is almost farcical where we are at the moment but I would warn the die-hard football fans that things may get worse before they improve—unless there are major changes and investment in a structured plan.

AboutKelvin Jack

Kelvin Jack
Kelvin Jack is a former Trinidad and Tobago international football team goalkeeper and was first choice at the 2006 Germany World Cup although injury restricted him to one outing against Paraguay. Jack is an ex-San Juan Jabloteh captain and played professionally in the UK with Dundee (Scotland) and Gillingham (England).

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100 comments

  1. This holds true for so many of our sporting bodies md tea,s in Trinidad, up to now the board in charge of gymnastics cannot manage to get rod of a few parasites…..

  2. Ask not what your country can do for you … but what you can do for your country

  3. I do not think I am really qualified to comment on this post due to lack of technical knowledge of the game. What I can say though that at the Secondary School level. Players exhibit greater passion, there is more co-ordination, and more of a fighting disposition of team mates. Some of the players actually cry, if they are not victorious. Problems at the administrative level are minimal. Perhaps if that passion, combined with proper technical administrative skills could be employed, perhaps the results would be more encouraging, but from the look of things, it will not take place very soon. Start with the young ones and try to iron out the technical difficulties. Good Luck.

  4. Very good read with a lot of truth!

  5. In game tactics change depending on the opponent. But can someone tell me what style of football the National Teams from youth level come right up to the Senior Team play? We need to find an identity 1st and then employ the right coaches for the job. The politics is not going to disappear overnight. Local management will sadly continue to place more importance on trying to fill their pockets, rather than improving the local infrastructure. Kelvin failed to mention the fact that right now we are not even good enough to win the Caribbean Cup. Far less to compete with the best teams from any region, including New Zealand in Oceania.

  6. All of which Kelvin Jack has expressed is on point. First, Administratively we lack the right leadership to truly understand what is required to be successful consistently at that level. Second, our so called professionals lack the football and emotional intelligence to control and manage games for us to achieve the desired result and finally the TTFA needs to invest in heavily in the under 12 age group with respect to broadening their life experiences, their technical and tactical awareness, gradual exposure to nutrition, body mechanics and strength and conditioning. Once there areas are worked on with this age group we need not worry about qualifying for a World Cup in the future.

  7. The first paragraph is an accurate summary of, not only soccer, but most other national sports.

  8. I agree with all is said but my input is we need to start with the primary schools than the high schools leagues. We have not had any one football player played at a high level after the guys of 2006 our highest level is the MLS and that will never take us to a WC!

  9. For years now we blaming everyone
    But we have to start looking at the players who are almost all professionals and who it seems can’t hold it together no matter who is the coach especially the foreign base players who is only coming home to be cap in matches other teams have worse Coaches but there players have the heart to fight ours are here merely to play not to win

  10. Agreed with everything Mr. Jack says..also agrees it will get worse before it gets better…however whats the plan to get back on track…and it clearly wont involve djw resigning because personal accountability just isnt a thing in our twin island republic…

  11. Here, here Senor Kelvin…..agreed 112.5%…..VAT inclusive.

  12. QUOTE: He then undermines Saintfiet publicly and hires Dennis Lawrence, while ignoring Terry Fenwick who was—without question—the best person available to give us a chance of qualifying.

    Kelvin,
    These are words of wisdom. I couldn’t agree more!

  13. It’s not the players. We had a decent chance but was totally let down by the administration. Poor decisions on and off the field. Same problem seen in WI cricket too.
    Just as in the cricket I wish some of the past (noteable) pros like Kelvin Jack would come back take charge of the administrative side of things.
    Was trying to go Russia but will have to settle for a Tokyo 2020

  14. Do something to fix it na Kelvin Jack. The past pros like urself have a better chance to fix it. We the defenseless football public have to suffer…

  15. I think we had the personnel to get to Russia, whether it was an automatic spot or via play-off. It’s just that when we got to the point where we had to take it to another level, we plummeted instead. I don’t know if Hart took the team as far as he could, or if DJW is just ah blight, or if the players all of ah sudden became very slack, but the team was showing great promise, and then we imploded.

    • I’m leaning towards Hart took them as far as they could

      He probably knew that too hence why at start of hex he was trying to get Bostock and MLS trio since none of local players as now proved we’re good enough to challenge incumbents in order to improve team

    • For example, I think Bostock could have made a huge impact. Too bad for the administrative SNAFU.

    • I think hartie was the guy to get is there. The players focus waned because they became complacent because of how far they had gotten. Problem is ….they forgot the things that got them there. ….effort and discipline without it …you have this skeleton of a national team …repping us ….

    • I think Hart would have gotten us there, he had the understanding of our culture but found a way to demand excellence and discipline. He recognized that we needed to improve and tried unsuccessfully to recruit the players required for the HEX level. I maybe romantacising however he worked with players whose understanding of nutritional preparation included peanut punch, he worked with players who initially refused to take ice baths. I think those that were anti-Hart when the teams results soured do not remember from where he started. Progress is not measured from where you are but from where you started.

    • Sean Powder That is what good coaches do. It looks from my perspective that DL has not looked at the players individually and try to focus on what needs to be taught or motivated. Then again he may not be in a position to make changes. Inside these sports organizations there are a lot of people on personal power plays. DL may be in a very compromising position and if he is not then he does not have the experience.

    • Nigel Myers Sean Powder Kirwin Weston Earl Mango Pierre Lasana Liburd Kelvin Jack Brent Bennett

      I recall while I was at game in Colorado that first half when Lawrence dropped that surprised 3-4-3 formation and how it kind of caught USA 🇺🇸 by surprise and Arena admitted that much in post presser when I asked him

      All I could think of was alternate reality where if Hart was still coach & was able to recruit the aforementioned players – that formation could have been very potent

      Jan

      Innis Bateau Mekeil back 3

      De leon & sheanon Williams at wing back

      Bostock & khaleem in middle

      Joevin & Molino behind Wright Phillips

  16. Our football is in shambles at present the quality football being produced at this moment at local level the tt pro league and super league last Sunday at Arima velodrome santa Rosa vs cunupia fc cunupia fc keeper was sent of a player went in the goal because a penalty was awarded after the penalty the cunupia coach made a change he sent in the second choice keeper and the player who went in goal to the penalty kick went back to his position on the field wich ment a player had to be taken off the velodrome was in laughfter because the coach did not no what to do an these individuals coaching present Rangers year after year same results take a careful look at north east stars football an they are winning wich shows you the level of the other teams and this is where our national selection are choosen from

  17. The players selected and coaches were not good enough however I think comparitavely our eligible pool of potential players was good enough but many were not called and some opted not to make themselves available. In this HEX there are only 2 quality teams; Mexico and Costa Rica. The USA is struggling with a throw back team coached by a throw back coach after Klinsman. For me with a strategic plan, stability at coaching position and proper administration the 3rd spot was possible and 4th likely. I believe this largely because of the weakness of all teams other than Mexico and Costa Rica. Amazingly we have a Director of Football and a Technical Director with no plan in site, it will get worse before it gets better.

  18. When does DJW tenure as ttfa president end ? Hoping it’s sometime soon

  19. The players selected and coaches were not good enough however I think comparitavely our eligible pool of potential players was good enough but many were not called and some opted not to make themselves available. In this HEX there are only 2 quality teams; Mexico and Costa Rica. The USA is struggling with a throw back team coached by a throw back coach after Klinsman. For me with a strategic plan, stability at coaching position and proper administration the 3rd spot was possible and 4th likely. I believe this largely because of the weakness of all teams other than Mexico and Costa Rica. Amazingly we have a Director of Football and a Technical Director with no plan in site, it will get worse before it gets better.

  20. We stood a chance however bad choices killed us off

  21. Barely a year or so ago the team that drew 4-4 with Mexico was the best performance and team I had seen inclusive of the strike squad and the team that went to Germany. We had a bad start againt the current group leader Costa Rica and that was all DJW wanted. Look at sh*t now.

  22. Maybe a foreign coach can make a difference, as he would not easily influenced by some players and admin officials opinions on other players. Time to select an Under 23 local squad to train for the next World Cup including foreign based talents like Levi Garcia.

  23. Well given that so much blame is being put at the feet of DJW, I’d be curious to know how those with voting power are going to ensure that a different personality type heads the FA after the next election.

    • They’re not ….because they’re spineless cowards!

    • Well as I said from day one when my dictator president was crowned the president of the corrupted TTFA that it was really a bad move because he owns a professional team in the league and it would have been a conflict in interest, so Alyuh cannot blame him for the outcome of this disastrous football campaign eh, blame the bootleg players and the bootleg coaches that were selected after my greatest local/ foreign base Coach Hart was fired because of their own agendas. Them really good yes.

    • No change is coming …it doesn’t work that way because you will continue to have people fulfilling their personal obligations. Football comes after.

  24. I agree with kelvin Jack.it is noticeable that discipline is a major concern.

  25. I’m patiently waiting to tell my all from my secondary school days to national selection trials to national team trainer/ therapist to FIFA U17 WWC 2010 duty as therapist to Referees and More recently national FUTSAL

  26. Williams, you wasting we time. Time for you to pack up and ride off into the sunset, before night time catches you unprepared. Thank you, but LEAVE NOW NAH!

  27. He tells it like it is….straight to the point. But do you think Administrators care about what someone else has to say….not on your life.
    When someone criticizes the sport … being as thin skinned as they are… they attack. It happens in track and field too.
    Critize them or offer an opinion and they single you out.
    Kelvin J is brutally honest.

  28. Good reading. ….. sound and to the point.

  29. DJW needs to go plain and simple.

  30. Kello, you are so right. The level of discipline, commitment, intensity, togetherness, respect and I would add love that we had in the 2006 team is what saw us through.
    We spent quality time together, shared views supported each other in tough times, and on the road for 42 days, there was never an incident between team members. Each member looked out for the other, helped out when necessary even if it was not your job.
    There were challenges, but we faced them together. There is too much ME in our football today. Trinis have become a very selfish people.
    You know of what I speak.
    True friends for life.

    • Earl Best

      “Trinis have become a very selfish people.”

      I’ve been around a little while with my eyes wide open so I don’t need to be told that. I wish you would tell us, Bruce, when in your opinion the selfishness started in earnest and why. That would be a major contribution to an understanding of life on this rock and a major stepping-stone towards achieving the kinds of progress we need to make as a society.

  31. Total agreement.
    Saw them play Grenada in Grenada, and barely scrape a draw. The players we more concerned with buying alcohol and tackling the store clerk on their way back to T&T than their embarrassing piss poor performance.
    Hart was the best chance we had of winning points.
    Fire everybody!
    Overhaul everything and start over.

  32. Big stueps ….why ya didn’t leave Hart as coach smdh

  33. Can’t agree more. Exceptional article, quite factual