Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick came in for congratulations from some supporters but raised eyebrows among the local football fraternity, after pointing to results in lopsided exhibition matches as signs of progress by his squad.
The Soca Warriors are yet to play their first international friendly under the Englishman and it is uncertain whether he will have a proper warm-up match before their opening Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier against Guyana on 25 March.
Undeterred, Fenwick still found reason to be cheerful about the form of his local-based training squad in a social media post last Wednesday. He informed fans that his players are on a four match winning streak with 33 goals scored, none conceded, and only four shots permitted on their own goal.
(A source close to the team said the correct figure was 32 goals, and an additional goal was tabulated in error.)
So who have his Warriors faced? Fenwick did not give details but Wired868 can confirm practice games against Pro League club AC Port of Spain and the Trendsetter Hawks Academy, as well as makeshift ‘combined’ teams from the central and east zones.
None of the zonal teams were organised by their respective zonal bodies. Instead, Crowne Trace and Chaguanas East Secondary coach Nicholas Griffith was asked to pick players from the central zone while Fenwick’s assistant, Adrian Romain, helped put together an eastern XI.
Fenwick allegedly asked all his opponents to use players aged between 16-21 so he could ‘see what young talented players there are’, and the northern team even fielded 14-year-old QRC schoolboy, Aydon Caruth.
It was a restriction Fenwick did not apply to his own squad, which featured several older players including Police FC goalkeeper Adrian Foncette and Defence Force playmaker Hashim Arcia, who are both 32.
Notably, while the Warriors train three or four times a week, they came up against teams that are unable to practice at all due to Covid-19 regulations.
It was odd then to see Fenwick reference the results as a yardstick to gauge his progress as national coach—particularly as he offered withering condemnation of his predecessor, Dennis Lawrence, for arranging a friendly against international minnows Anguilla, who they mauled 15-0 last year.
“I didn’t see the point of playing against kids,” said one coach, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s not as if they can ask our opponents in the World Cup qualifiers to only play youngsters.”
The Warriors recorded their four wins as:
T&T 8 (Hashim Arcia , Shackiel Henry, Sean Bonval, Matthew Woo Ling, Justin Garcia, Brent Sam, Molik Khan), AC POS 0;
T&T 8 (Shackiel Henry , Sean Bonval , Judah Garcia, Jabari Mitchell, Brent Sam, Nathaniel James), Trendsetter Hawks Academy 0;
T&T 10 (Brent Sam , Rashad Hyacenth , Sean Bonval, Nathaniel James, Shackiel Henry, Tyrese Spicer, Jabari Mitchell, Mikhail McComie), Central XI 0;
T&T 6 (Shackiel Henry , Brent Sam , Sean Bonval, Molik Khan), Eastern XI 0.
Ironically, just nine from the 32 goals scored by Fenwick’s Warriors were converted by players who are 23 years old or younger—with teenagers Khan, Spicer and James, as well as the slightly older trio of Garcia, McComie and Mitchell taking the honours.
Fenwick did not respond to a query from Wired868 regarding why he limited his opponents’ player pool, and the value he saw in the results. However, a source close to the national set-up sought to explain what the former England World Cup defender had in mind.
“Playing guys in their late 20s and early 30s serves little purpose because they will not be fit and fast enough to keep pace with Terry’s squad,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “So what Terry was doing was trying to make sure the other teams were able to give him a good game. Added to which most teams abroad are looking for younger players; so Terry is thinking ahead and looking to build younger players so they can be ready for international football.
“What value is it for a national coach to play against old players? The vast majority of his squad now are under-25 with a handful over that, which is what it should be.
“Before, under previous coaches, the national team had it the other way around.”
Off the field, Fenwick and his coaching staff are believed to be still awaiting their first pay cheque—almost a year since being appointed by the William Wallace-led administration.
Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad promised to look into remuneration for national coaches since April. However, thus far, only technical director Dion La Foucade and director of football Richard Piper received any salary, along with office staff. And, even then, it was for one month’s work.
The going rate for normalisation committee members is US$6,500 per month for the chairman and US$4,000 for other members. Hadad is assisted by vice-chair Judy Daniel and ordinary member Nigel Romano and all three have been paid by Fifa.
The Warriors are drawn in Group F of a preliminary Concacaf bracket, alongside St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas. Only the winner will advance to the next phase of competition.
Concacaf 2022 World Cup qualifiers
Trinidad and Tobago v Guyana, 25 March,
Puerto Rico v Trinidad and Tobago, 28 March
Bahamas v Trinidad and Tobago, 5 June
Trinidad and Tobago v St Kitts and Nevis, 8 June.