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Lawrence reveals reasons for Joevin and Guerra omissions and inclusion of Russell Jr

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence revealed that German-based flanker Joevin Jones and United States-based attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra were ruled unavailable to face Wales next week, as he tried to explain his 22-man squad for international friendly action at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham.

Guerra, according to Lawrence, has a slight injury and missed several sessions while Jones allegedly asked to be omitted for personal reasons.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones controls the ball during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on 29 March 2016.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“I am not in any position to make any more comment on [Jones’ withdrawal],” said Lawrence. “I respect his wishes in that it is private and confidential.”

It is the second time in the past five months that Jones withdrew from selection despite being physically able to play. Last October, he also pulled out of a trip to Thailand after saying he needed to mentally regroup.

Lawrence criticised Jones then for his late decision—which left the Warriors with a player short in their travelling party—and published the latter’s letter. But he was more conciliatory today.

Once more, Lawrence pointed to the number of national players in their pre-season and off season as his biggest worry heading into the Wales clash. The Warriors coach addressed this somewhat with a three-week camp for the local-based players but suggested it also prompted his recall of 31 year old forward Willis Plaza, who is campaigning with Churchill Brothers in the India professional league at present.

“For me, I would’ve liked [my players] to be playing competitive football,” said Lawrence. “We tried to put together a three-week training programme [and] we managed to get three friendly games—two against Rangers [and] one against the Police.

Photo: Wales star Gareth Bale celebrates during international action.

“[But] I think we all know is difficult because we are going take on a Wales squad that [has] got players that played over 30 games in the Spanish La Liga, 30 games in the English Premier League and so forth.

“So, in terms of the players’ match tempo, I think it’s going to be a bit difficult for them. So that’s why it was important to select a squad with a lot of the players that are involved in leagues, like Willis Plaza, Khaleem Hyland, and Sheldon Bateau; because these boys are more active at the moment.”

But how did Morvant Caledonia United winger-cum-left back Ross Russell Jr get in the squad ahead of overseas-based players like Keston Julien (AS Trecin—Slovakia) and Noah Powder (Real Monarchs—USA)?

At present, Powder is in pre-season while Julien, although still in season, has not played for his club since last October. Lawrence said Russell Jr—whose father, Ross Russell, played alongside Lawrence for Defence Force and Trinidad and Tobago and is the current goalkeeping coach—earned his chance by impressing at their training camp.

“We needed to strengthen in the left back position,” said Lawrence. “[…] Ross did very well coming down to the back end of last season and he was invited to be part of the training group and I think he really impressed with what he offers us.

“I think he deserves his selection.”

Photo: Then Defence Force winger Ross Russell Jr (right) tries to sneak past Police FC midfield sentry Todd Ryan during 2015/16 Pro League action in Malabar.
(Courtesy Nicholas Bhajan/Wired868)

A versatile flanker, the 26 year old Russell Jr was considered better than useful at Pro League level with his ability to play in either full back or wing role. But his career trajectory was dramatically altered when he was charged for murder in 2016.

It took two years before lawmen realised they held the wrong man; and by then he lost his job as a soldier.

Lawrence suggested that Russell Jr’s international call up—his first at senior international level—was reward for his efforts since his release on 20 August 2018.

“Part of the reform is the boy [is] back now and getting his football career to where it should be,” said Lawrence. “I think we need to see that as a positive. A lot come out [of jail] and go back in.”

Lawrence suggested that he still hopes to have a look at players like Leland Archer, Akeem Roach, Shannon Gomez and Powder—who are all under 23 years old—but felt the short preparation time for the Wales match meant it was not the best opportunity to integrate them.

The Warriors coach confirmed that two local-based players were cut from his training squad due to failed drug tests but declined to name them. He said the duo could be important national players and he hopes they get the help necessary to return to his squad.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) tries to pass on instructions to (from right) Alvin Jones, Leston Paul and Khaleem Hyland during a training session in San José on 12 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

“Our job is to help the players, not to reveal anything,” he said. “The clubs have been notified [and] they’re working with the clubs.”

The Warriors depart from Tobago to Manchester tomorrow from where they will head to their training base in Chester, just 15 minutes from Wrexham. Their first training session is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Lawrence, who spent eight years in Wales as a player with Wrexham and then Cardiff City, said he had been trying to get this game ever since his appointment in January 2017.

Trinidad and Tobago, again, will play only once in this FIFA international match window. Lawrence said this was because their other friendly offers were outside of Europe and FIFA regulations advise against playing in different confederations within such short timeframes.

“We had the opportunity to play other friendlies, but [they] were in different confederations,” said Lawrence, whose outfit are preparing for the June 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

About Kirwin Weston

Kirwin Weston
Kirwin Jules Weston is a freelance writer and sport enthusiast and holds a BEd Physical Education student from UTT. Weston attributes his love for sport to his father who exposed him to a variety of sports from a tender age. His favourite saying is: “Success breeds success.”

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80 comments

  1. Anybody knows what’s going on with Guerra? Is he still in T&T? Is he injured? Does he have work permit issues? It’s almost 10 games into the USL Championship season and I have not seen or heard anything about him, and he’s still on Charleston Battery’s roster.

  2. I wonder what’s really going on with Joevin? Should we be concerned?

    October 2018 – Cited personal reasons for pulling out of the friendly against Thailand

    February 2019 – Cited personal reasons for pulling out of a club game against SV Sandhausen

    March 2019 – Cited personal reasons for pulling out of the friendly against Wales

  3. He stands a better chance of gettin paid dere dan here under this administration

  4. Latas going to coach Barbados hope he gets paid.

  5. Who showing d game on wednesday???

  6. I read Lawrence explanation twice …. I may be bias but how could he pick Palza over Marcus Joseph right now arguably he’s the most inform and hottest thing in the India league ???

  7. What about Figueroua?? seeing that we looking at our left bac options

  8. Lawrence’s selection is always inexplicable. BUT the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Gold Cup is the metric we will use.

  9. Any word on either of the Winchesters? Shahdon and/or Rundell??

  10. The employment of a Technical Director is compulsory for each Member Association per FIFA . Do we have one?

  11. Im sure its probably Equitorial New Guineau or Bangladesh…do u mean to say we cudnt even get another friendly against a smaller UEFA nation…Lithueanea or Cyprus or some smaller nation…smh

  12. At least we should know which countries are interested in playing us

  13. Lawrence says “…FIFA regulations advise against playing in different confederations within such short timeframes.” Meanwhile, when Hart was in charge, DJW wanted we to go from T&T to South America to Asia to Africa. And when Hart say no to Equatorial Guinea, DJW wanted to coast rank.

  14. It wud be interesting to kno who were d other countries that were will to play us…Cud anyone shed some light??

  15. Wales named a squad of 31 and they play a UEFA Nations League qualifier against Slovakia on Sun 24 Mar. Don’t hold your breath to see Bale and Ramsey play against TT

  16. fingers crossed we eh get 10

  17. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

  18. Our Head Coach and his scouts do not know that the USL Championship, America’s 2nd level started last week and that tonight was the league’s second game. Noah Powder played the full 90 for Real Monarchs tonight in a 0-0 draw, though they played with 10 men for 60 minutes. How could Powder be in pre-season when he is playing in the same league as Cato,Guerra and Gomez?

    All USL games can be viewed for free live outside the USA. This fella serious?

  19. No mention of Marcus Joseph, who is very active, and on target in same league as Plaza….

  20. Lawrence could talk that crap and expect people him. Ross Russel get pick because of his father.

  21. Lawrence says “…but felt the short preparation time for the Wales match meant it was not the best opportunity to integrate them.” But unless it is a tournament like the Gold Cup or World Cup, international football is always about short preparation times.

  22. I fed up of the TTFA yes! They could do whatever they want now

  23. Disappointing. Never know what to believe with the TTFA.