Terry Fenwick started his tenure as Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach at the Police Barracks in St James today, with his first training session since he was hired last December; and the first for any national team under Covid-19 regulations and following the appointment of normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad.
If the intention was to turn attention away from the legal wrangling between estranged Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and Fifa and on to the more pleasant aspects of the game, it could hardly be described as an immediate success.
Hadad did not attend to introduce himself to players—although his ‘assistant’ Amiel Mohammed was there—while the coaches present were a mishmash of TTFA hirings and Fenwick’s own Football Factory employees.
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers director Richard Ferguson ensured his own players boycotted the session. And, bizarrely, the media was not allowed to get closer than the streets around the venue.
Elsewhere, Inside World Football—a site that dedicated countless stories to attacking the William Wallace-led administration since last October—trained its guns on Fenwick, who it accused of being behind the TTFA’s more controversial business over the past six months while noting that the Englishman has ‘somehow managed to stay in post under the normalisation committee’.
Fenwick dismissed the allegations, which the website did not attribute to anyone.
“It is rubbish,” said Fenwick. “It is totally untrue and I am considering legal action.”
The former England World Cup defender said he could not comment on today’s training session due to a media gag by Hadad, who has been near invisible in recent weeks.
Hadad, the co-CEO of HadCo Limited, heads a committee mandated by Fifa to:
- Run the TTFA’s daily affairs;
- Establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA;
- Review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to Ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;
- Organise and to conduct elections of a new TTFA executive committee for a four-year mandate.
Whatever Hadad actually gets done—and if he and his fellow committee members, Judy Daniel and Nigel Romano, are being paid by Fifa to do so—is presumably known to the world governing body but remains a mystery to much of the island.
Three months after his appointment, the businessman is yet to offer more than a cursory introduction to coaches and office staff while he has still not met the majority of the TTFA’s delegates or former board members—whether virtually or otherwise.
Hadad requested banking details from technical staff members, a few weeks ago, but has not said when anyone will be paid or even promised to honour existing contracts.
In the midst of the uncertainty, Fenwick decided to hold his first session as he selected 40 players to begin training three times a week.
Defence Force utility player Curtis Gonzales and Police FC goalkeeper Adrian Foncette were the most senior players invited while the training squad was packed with teenagers—including San Juan Jabloteh forward Justin Araujo-Wilson, W Connection midfielder Molik Khan, St Augustine Secondary forward Tyrese Spicer and former National Under-17 attacker Gary Griffith III, who is the son of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
Fifa suggested that, as a result of Covid-19, international football competitions are unlikely to restart until November at the earliest. However, a source close to the team explained that the resumption of national training was meant to activate local players who have not played a game since March and are unsure when the next Pro League season will start.
Fenwick, apparently, is also anxious to get a feel for available talent on the island.
Ferguson, whose La Horquetta-based team employs a string of potential international players like Aikim Andrews, Isaiah Lee, Kadeem Corbin, Kishon Hackshaw, Keron Cummings and Ross Russell Jr, is unconvinced by the exercise and confirmed that he told his players to boycott the sessions.
“The prime minister specifically stated that sport activities will not resume until 20 June, so we at Rangers are law abiding citizens,” Ferguson told Wired868. “I don’t want to subject any of my players to the coronavirus, or to have them breaking the law.
“The other issue is I did respond to the head coach of the national team and told him Rangers believe there is going to be a league in the last week of July and we will like to have our players to train and practice for that league.”
Griffith, a former top flight hockey player, insisted that Fenwick was cleared to train the team and urged stakeholders to support him.
“Everything that they were doing was permissible within the public health ordinance,” said Griffith, who criticised the non-appearance of Rangers players. “Maybe it is my training that you always support the person in authority for a greater cause.
“[…] What I am seeing is the height of hypocrisy, as I remember years ago when our national players were getting problems to leave English Premier League clubs to come across and play for their country; and you were hearing people complaining locally.
“Now all of a sudden you have managers in local clubs preventing our national players from coming to train with national teams.”
Fifa rules stipulate that clubs are only obliged to release players for national duty during specified match windows. As such, Ferguson and any other club director could legally block players from representing their country outside of those periods.
Ironically, Fenwick used those regulations himself to stop players from training with the national team while in charge of Clico San Juan Jabloteh.
Matters were far from settled on the training ground today too, as the appointed National Senior Team staff of assistant coach Derek King, manager Captain Basil Thompson and equipment manager Michael Williams turned up to find themselves working with a second group comprising of coaches Anthony Harrington, Nigel Henry, Keon Trim and James Baird and administrators Denise Govia and Adrian Romain. Fenwick’s helpers, according to the source, are working pro bono.
Warriors assistant coach/goalkeeper coach Kelvin Jack is in England with his family while trainer Oswin Birchwood was also absent.
A source close to the team explained that, since coaches have not been paid since their appointments, Fenwick brought his own coaches along to ensure he would have adequate staff to carry on the session. Covid-19 restrictions also meant he needed enough coaches to manage 40 players divided into roughly six groups.
Fenwick is believed to have purchased refreshments and fruits for players today. However, with no financing available and no international competition on the horizon, players could be spending as much as TT$80 a day to attend training with little chance of covering those expenses from match fees.
Wired868 understands that Fenwick is pushing to have supplements sponsored for the players and hopes to find help for their travel expenses.
TTFA technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy does not see the point of the venture, which he described as ‘a PR exercise and a bad, bad joke’.
“From reports coming in, this was a circus,” said Look Loy. “In the first place, the government has Covid regulations governing the country, which does not allow what took place today—because team sport is not supposed to restart until 22 June.
“I don’t care what Gary [Griffith] said because the police commissioner is NOT the government of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Look Loy also criticised Fenwick’s decision to bypass other national coaches—like Angus Eve, Stern John and Clayton Morris—to bring in staff from his own youth club for national sessions.
“I cannot countenance the use of non-national team staff to not only train a national team but the Senior National Team,” said Look Loy. “All things being equal and if I was operational that could never have happened. We have a national technical staff in place, so how we can go to outsiders who have no national coaching experience?
“[…] Further, I don’t understand the need to rush to break Covid regulations and to bring in non-approved staff when there is going to be no Fifa window for that national team to play any games in, until December or January next year—although they can play friendlies.”
Look Loy said the resumption of the Men’s National Senior Team might put pressure on Hadad to make a decision regarding the remaining teams, which can theoretically begin training within the next two weeks.
“If this is a precedent then, when football reopens in two weeks, the issues arises for the other coaches: what are we to do?” Look Loy noted. “They have no international football to play this year either, so what happens with these coaches and their teams? Somebody has to give them direction; but if I do, Fifa will tell the normalisation committee to kill whatever I suggest.
“The question remains: how is this normalisation committee treating with these teams who were put into animated suspension by Covid? How is it going to treat with the appointments?
“Are they going to respect the appointments and the terms of the appointments—mainly salaries—or are they not?”
Hadad, as always, has promised nothing and delivered just as much.