Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick looks set to benefit from increased powers, as the Soca Warriors start preparation for their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in earnest under the supervision of Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad.
The Warriors are drawn in Group F of a preliminary Concacaf bracket alongside St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas. Only the winners advance to a two-legged play-offs, and then an eight team final qualifying round for the World Cup.
Covid-19 pandemic permitting, the Warriors are scheduled to play their first competitive game at an unspecified date in March. Hadad, the co-CEO of family business HadCo Limited, must provide the logistical support for that thrust.
Hadad was initially appointed to run local football affairs on 27 March, two weeks after Fifa announced the removal of Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his vice-presidents. However, his tenure was interrupted by a court order in September and then an international suspension, which Fifa lifted on Thursday 19 November.
Hadad since hinted at his immediate plans for the national set-up to I95.5FM; and Fenwick’s needs appear to be the immediate priority.
“We are going to definitely have to sit down and have discussions around the current coaching staff,” said Hadad, “and this has been said to them already about what their roles are. We may have to tweak some and rearrange some, but I do not want to commit to what that would look like now.
“Terry Fenwick has done a great job of getting the men’s national team back out on the field… Hopefully, Terry will be able to put together a team […] and we will take a look at who he wants to form the coaching team around him.”
Team manager Captain Basil Thompson, who came in for fierce criticism from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith—an avid supporter and patron of the football programme—is expected to be vulnerable in any staff shake-up.
Thompson was appointed by the previous Keith Look Loy-led technical committee and was not Fenwick’s choice. The soldier does not appear to have won the head coach’s confidence over the last 11 months.
Otherwise, Fenwick may be allowed to bolster his backroom staff without letting anyone go.
His predecessor, Dennis Lawrence, had a 12-man technical staff which included: Sol Campbell, Stuart Charles-Fevrier, Stern John (assistant coaches), Ross Russell (goalkeeper coach), Riedoh Berdien (fitness conditioning coach), Israel Dowlat (team doctor), Dave Isaac (paramedic), Saron Joseph (massage therapist), Stephen Bradley (evaluation science GPRS), Matthew Hawkes (match analyst), and Michael Williams (equipment manager).
In stark contrast, Fenwick got a five-member support staff with Derek King and Kelvin Jack as assistants, Michael Williams as equipment manager, Oswin Birchwood as trainer and Thompson as manager. Jack was expected to double up as goalkeeper coach.
However, since then, Police FC youth team coach Keon Trim and ex-St Augustine Secondary coach Adrian Romain have regularly supported the former England World Cup defender at national training sessions. Both worked with Fenwick previously at his private coaching school, Football Factory.
Men’s National Under-15 Team head coach Keith Jeffrey, who is also the San Juan Jabloteh technical director, has also been a regular at Fenwick’s practices where Clayton Ince often fills in as goalkeeper coach—with Jack still in England and awaiting a travel exemption.
Romain is believed to be Fenwick’s first choice as team manager with Trim also likely to be included as an assistant coach. It is left to be seen whether Jeffrey’s current promotion will be made permanent too.
One school of thought is that Fenwick should have been allowed to select his backroom staff in the first place.
Look Loy’s technical structure saw his committee control all appointments, subject to board approval. Coaches were left to petition for changes to their staffs—as was the case when King replaced National Under-20 Team trainer, Trey Hart, with Saron Joseph.
Hadad’s apparent desire to give Fenwick a freer hand in determining his staff is closer to established practice, and therefore more of a reset than a revolution.
Still, there is some irony that Fenwick’s stock appears to be on the rise when it was the Englishman and his shady compatriot and friend, Peter Miller, who helped to erode Wallace’s moral authority in the first place.
Almost every financial scandal suffered by Wallace involved Fenwick or Miller—and sometimes both—with SportsMax’s expose of the coach’s secret contract arguably being the beginning of the end for the former TTFA president.
Last January, the TTFA board instructed Look Loy to offer Fenwick a contract worth US$17,500 (TT$118,800) per month, with a pay rise to US$20,0000 (TT$135,800) a month once the Warriors secured qualification for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
If Trinidad and Tobago advanced to the Gold Cup quarterfinal round, the TTFA would be obliged to give Fenwick a two year contract extension at the same pay.
However, privately, Fenwick requested (and received from Wallace) a starting salary of US$20,000 (TT$135,800) per month with an increase to US$25,000 (TT$169,000) once the team qualifies for the Gold Cup. There were also additional perks such as private medical insurance for his daughter and a ‘suitable’ phone, laptop and a motor car with all associated costs, such as insurance, maintenance, and fuel, borne by the TTFA.
Crucially, the Englishman’s second contract—signed off by Wallace but unseen by the board—included an automatic two-year extension for merely qualifying for the Gold Cup.
Wallace claimed he signed the contract in error and did not know that Fenwick had changed the terms. Fenwick has not spoken publicly on the issue but refused to alter the deal after the fact.
In short, the TTFA board had challenged Fenwick to not only get to the Gold Cup but to defeat two teams from Mexico, El Salvador and Curaçao to keep his job until December 2023.
But Fenwick’s current terms mean the Warriors must only defeat Montserrat and either Cuba or French Guiana for the Englishman to get an extension.
No Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach has kept his job for four years, with Conrad Brathwaite (1965-67), Zoran Vranes (1994-96), Bertille St Clair (1997-2000), Russell Latapy (2009-11), Stephen Hart (2013-16), and Lawrence (2017-19) all lasting roughly three years.
Fenwick should fancy his chances of bettering them, even without the slate that helped put him in charge of the TTFA’s flagship team.
The United TTFA slate that contested the TTFA elections last November comprised, on paper, of Wallace, his TTFA vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip, and Anthony Harford and Look Loy. Neither Harford nor Look Loy ran for elected office.
However, Fenwick, Miller and general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan were always there in the background, after they promised Wallace that they would find the finances necessary to get the TTFA out of debt.
Fifa president and Bureau of the Fifa Council chairman Gianni Infantino claimed the absence of a viable debt reduction plan and a solid financial structure in the TTFA prompted the global body to remove Wallace in March—although high court judge Carol Gobin ruled otherwise.
Since Fifa’s intervention, Wallace, Harford, Joseph-Warrick and Look Loy resigned from the helm of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), Northern FA (NFA), Women’s League of Football (WoLF) and the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) respectively, while the entire board—inclusive of the president and vice-presidents—were forced to vacate their posts.
Hadad also suspended Ramdhan.
Taylor, the Central FA general secretary, appears to be the only United TTFA member who has retained an administrative role within a local stakeholder body.
However, at TTFA level, the 60-year-old Fenwick remains the last man standing.
A Pro League champion with San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC, the outspoken Englishman may yet emerge from the messy leadership transition even stronger, in the absence of Look Loy and his technical committee.
A win apiece over the unheralded Montserrat and either Cuba and French Guiana would secure Fenwick an extension worth TT$4.9 million over two and a half years.
It looks to be the era of ‘Teflon Terry’.