The last time that the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team won an international football match—the hapless Anguilla, then ranked 209th from Fifa’s 209 member associations, notwithstanding—Black Panther was in theatres, Super Blue and Machel’s Soca Kingdom was the road march tune and midfield bolt Michel Poon-Angeron’s primary ambition as a player was to avoid relegation with St Mary’s College.
The Warriors went 17 games without a win since their 2-0 friendly triumph over the United Arab Emirates in Girona, Spain on 6 September 2018. Sixteen of those outings were under the management of former head coach Dennis Lawrence, while the seismic 17th, a joint-national record 7-0 loss to the United States, came under the watch of current head coach Terry Fenwick.
Last night, Trinidad and Tobago tasted triumph again, as they whipped Guyana 3-0 in their opening Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying fixture, and Fenwick gushed over their showing in Santo Domingo.
“[I’m] obviously very pleased with the result,” Fenwick told the TTFA Media. “This is my players that want to make […] the football fans back home in Trinidad proud of our performances. Can’t say anything too high about them, the performance was great.”
Team captain Khaleem Hyland, who was a commanding presence in central midfield, was glad to have something to celebrate—although his stats were a bit off.
“It is our first victory in 20 games,” said Hyland, “so we needed to get back to that standard where we belong.”
Trinidad and Tobago were at times unrecognisable from the long-ball, kamikaze-press merchants they were under Fenwick against the US and in the practice games in Trinidad. Instead, they sometimes passed through rather than over the opposing midfield lines—a task made easier by an unusually tame Guyana team—and looked fairly composed in possession, with Hyland, debutant Daniel Phillips and the roving Joevin Jones having much to do with that.
Still, Fenwick could point to fact that Levi Garcia’s opening goal came from regaining possession high up the field, Sheldon Bateau scored off a set-piece and forward Ryan Telfer grabbed a third from a long ball, although it owed much to an extraordinary error by Guyana goalkeeper Akel Clarke.
“We are working on a very high press, from that high press it’s 100 miles per hour and then we’ve got to slow it down and be composed when we’re on the ball,” said Fenwick. “I thought our passing and movement was excellent. When we were direct we were very direct and got our goals, set plays worked very well with the in-swinging free kick.
“[…] Obviously pleased but this is just the first of hopefully many… But again, one step at a time. [We’ve] got another game coming up in three days [against Puerto Rico].”
Fenwick did comment on Jones’ missed penalty, with the MLS player then also failing to convert two rebound opportunities. Coincidentally, Jones’ younger brother, Alvin Jones, missed a penalty against the United States on 31 January 2021.
“I’m really upset that we missed the penalty in the fashion that we did miss, with the rebound,” said Fenwick.
Hyland insisted that Jones is a ‘great player’ who ‘will bounce back’. He won’t have long to wait for a shot at redemption, as the Warriors travel to Puerto Rico for their next outing on Sunday.
“We will be looking at [the Puerto Rico team] tomorrow,” said Fenwick. “Thanks to the normalisation committee, we’ve got Wyscout. So we will be watching them tomorrow and will prepare for them properly.”
The general message from the controversial Englishman was ‘back us’. Fenwick promised improvement on Lawrence’s tenure and, although yesterday’s outing was only his second game in charge, he was happy to stress on the positives.
“The general performance was excellent,” he said. “Very professional, organised, structured… I am pleased for my team and I hope the public at large back in Trinidad will get behind the players.”