On Friday, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams sat down with TV6 Morning Edition host Fazeer Mohammed to discuss the state of football in the twin island republic.
“I am not here to defend a coach, I am not here to defend an association,” said John-Williams, “I am here to talk the truth and the facts…”
So was John-Williams true to his word? Wired868 reviews some key excerpts of his interview.
Pity you let go of that Stephen Hart fellah eh? He was pretty decent, right? Especially if you look at our current results…
John-Williams: “The TTFA never fired Stephen Hart, there was a mutual parting of ways…”
Eh? Hart helped put the axe in his own back? Wired868 decided to let Hart bat for himself here and phoned his attorney, Keith Scotland.
Scotland: “That was absolutely not so. We say ‘yes’ he was fired, and wrongfully so as well… I don’t think the TTFA treated him fairly and coach Hart would love for justice to be done. But I cannot speak too much because this matter is before the courts…”
Sounds more debatable than fact then, eh ‘DJW’? Well, Hart took Trinidad and Tobago to two consecutive Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinals—he is the only coach after Bertille St Clair to lead the Soca Warriors into the tournament’s knockout stage—and a top 50 FIFA ranking, so maybe your view of the former coach has softened over the past three years…
John-Williams: “We failed to qualify for the Gold Cup under Stephen Hart directly and under Tom Saintfiet; and we lost our first three games in the Hex. So our football was in a downward spiral… Obviously Hart was loved by certain sections of society but, when you look at it, our football was going downhill. Our results were not happening.”
Ouch! And what do you mean by: ‘certain sections of society’?
For the record, Trinidad and Tobago only qualified for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup by virtue of Hart getting them into the last Hex. An accomplishment that Lawrence will almost certainly fail to emulate.
But didn’t Lawrence lose seven straight games—an all-time Trinidad and Tobago losing record? Doesn’t he hold two of the country’s five longest winless streaks ever? His current run of 11 games without a win is one bad result shy of tying the record for impotent coaching.
So, if three straight losses got Hart sacked, why does Lawrence still have a job?
John-Williams: “Nobody has taken into consideration that we have been playing top 50 opposition…”
Wait… what? Okay, so Iran (23), Wales (24), Japan (33) and USA (22) were top 50 opposition; although the first four nations played weakened teams against T&T—unlike when Argentina faced Hart’s Warriors with Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano on the field.
But the other five nations that the Warriors faced were: Thailand (115), Canada (78), Panama (74), Guyana (178), St Vincent and the Grenadines (176) and Martinique (unranked).
So why aren’t we doing better against the likes of them?
John-Williams: “It is not possible to play the majority of [our] games at home because of our financial position…”
It is more difficult to get a result on the road than at home. And Lawrence has played just 34 percent of his games in Trinidad—10 from 29 internationals.
Wait, how many games did Hart play at home? Twelve from 43 games? But that’s only 28 percent? Ahmmm…
John-Williams: “Dennis is a professional coach; well trained, well schooled… I think a lot of people are judging Dennis on pure results… but I have watched them play—particularly against Martinique—and I can tell the team is well prepared. They are not executing.
“[…] In football there is the performance and there is the result. I see, one, the performance and, two, the results.”
But when the Warriors failed to defeat Costa Rica, Honduras (away) and Martinique (with a half-dozen Europe-based players in their squad), you held Hart responsible.
Who has to answer when Lawrence fails to get a win against the likes of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand, Guyana and Martinique (with only one professional in their ranks)?
John-Williams: “At the end of the day, the players have to take some responsibility for their performances… The player quality is not as we had before. Our players are not playing in the top leagues around the world again […] and we are competing with the likes of United States and Mexico… We are punching way above our weight class.”
We are punching above our weight class under Lawrence with a FIFA ranking of 101 while we were supposedly ‘in a downward spiral’ under Hart yet ranked 65th at the time of his firing?
And, for the record, when Trinidad and Tobago held Mexico 4-4 at the 2015 Gold Cup, Hart had four Pro League players on the pitch: Marvin Phillip, Keron Cummings, Dwane James and Willis Plaza. In contrast, the 68 minutes that W Connection forward Shahdon Winchester played against Guyana at the 2019 Gold Cup was the only time that Lawrence had a home-based outfield player on the field for the entire tournament.
John-Williams: “We live in a society where the success of an organisation is measured by the success of the on the field performances of football teams… I think that is very unreasonable because you have to encompass the entire situation of Trinidad and tobago football as it relates to funding, the availability of footballers and the quality of the footballers.”
We know, we know… It is silly to judge success based on results unless you happen to be a football coach who isn’t named: ‘Dennis Lawrence’.
After 43 games, Hart had a 37 percent win record with 21 percent draws and 42 percent losses. And in competitive games, his Warriors lifted their game to deliver a 44 percent win record with 20 percent draws and 36 percent losses.
Lawrence’s overall record from 29 games is 17 percent won, 28 percent tied and 55 percent lost. While in competitive action, his team performed even worse with 15 percent of games won, 23 percent tied and 62 percent lost.
But who cares about results these days right? So what else have you got?
John-Williams: “We have moved the asset base of the Football Association from $197,000 to $100 million… [The Home of Football] is going to be the biggest achievement for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association after qualification for the Germany 2006 World Cup!”
You think the second biggest achievement in Trinidad and Tobago’s football history is a… hotel? And a Home of Football project that had no feasibility study to justify the outlay in the first place, suffers from a chronic lack of transparency and, according to general secretary Camara David, the TTFA cannot afford to complete?
Is this business about football or real estate?
John-Williams: “Trinidad and tobago football can now compete with the likes of [Florida’s] IMG [facilities]… We are going to host the Under-17 Concacaf Championship in April next year as a result of the Home of Football. And that can bring much needed revenue to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association…”
But Trinidad and Tobago held the Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship and lost money. Since when is hosting a Concacaf competition a money-making business for the TTFA?
Didn’t you notice fans aren’t even turning out anymore? That’s because it is hard to admire the facilities when your team is rubbish.
John-Williams: “Do we have true fans here? […] Those same people [let us] win two games and we are the best thing since sliced bread.”
So the fans are the problem now? Not the team’s performances? And not much chance of those wins to transform the mood eh. Lawrence managed two consecutive wins as head coach just once; and those were his first two games in charge against Barbados and Honduras—both in Port of Spain. The more time he spends with the squad, the worse their results.
DJW, how do you respond to those who say, looking at on-field results, your term in office has been a disaster?
John-Williams: “If I have to respond to that accusation in the manner I want to respond, I may be disrespectful and I have no intention to be disrespectful.”
Did you just invite me to imagine the insult you had in mind? That’s a bit passive-aggressive…
Any closing words?
John-Williams: “The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association is 111 years old in 2019. It was founded on July 23, 1908—the day I was born, July 23rd. Maybe the stars were lined up that I had to be president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.”
Did you just say that your rein was written in the stars? You are the ‘Chosen One’?
John-Williams: “I will tell you what is fact. I was born on July 23, the day the football association was founded. I was elected on November 29, when my dad was 97 years old. So maybe the stars are aligned. I am not electioneering, that is fact. Anything I talk here is fact.”
Can Wired868 suggest a nice symmetry? Why not call the next TTFA elections for 29 November and let the stars speak to you again?
John-Williams: “At the end of the day, I am confident that if I leave office in the morning, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association will be in a much better place.”
Finally, something we can agree on. The TTFA will certainly be better off if you left in the morning—although I suspect it won’t be for the same reason that you think.
Editor’s Note: All the quotes attributed to TTFA president David John-Williams were taken verbatim from his TV6 Morning Edition interview with Fazeer Mohammed on 13 September 2019.