“I know not everybody is going to be on my side—and they don’t have to be,” said new Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve, “but support the guys… We need to support the team.
“Not every time you will get the result you want, but if they [play] with passion and commitment, I am sure the public will recognise that and get behind them.”
The last week has been a blur of off-field activity for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee that runs it.
Tuesday 8 June: The Soca Warriors play their final Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying match—an academic 2-0 win over St Kitts and Nevis in the Dominican Republic.
Thursday 10 June: Assistant coaches Derek King and Kelvin Jack are fired, with settlement packages agreed.
Friday 11 June: Head coach Terry Fenwick is also dismissed.
Saturday 12 June: A technical advisory panel, headed by normalisation committee member Nicholas Gomez, meets to discuss a new coach.
Sunday 13 June: Angus Eve is revealed as the new coach on an interim basis, with a contract that runs until 31 August 2021.
Today, Eve held his first press conference as head coach—with NC chairman Robert Hadad and Gomez for company during the virtual session.
After an early charm offensive, Fenwick met local journalists just once after a joint national record 7-0 defeat away to the United States on 31 January 2021. Eve suggested that he sees the value of interacting with the media.
“I think it is invaluable [to communicate with the media],” said Eve. “This is not Angus Eve’s team, or any member of the normalisation committee’s team. It is the team of the people; and the press is the one who tells the wider community what is happening. So it is very important to engage the media.
“Sometimes there will be difficult questions but it is our responsibility to answer as best and honestly as we can, to give the public the best and most accurate information we can.”
Hadad, on behalf of the normalisation committee, thanked Eve for accepting the job under the existing conditions. The Soca Warriors have a crucial playoff game on 2 July against Montserrat and, if they win, against either Cuba or French Guiana on 6 July, for a spot in the group stage of the Concacaf Gold Cup.
“We need a lift, everyone knows [that],” said Hadad. “[…] We are very lucky to have Angus accept this position in this short timeframe and in this difficult period of time.”
Hadad reiterated his gratitude for the ‘commitment and effort’ of the outgoing technical staff and noted that the Covid-19 pandemic and normalisation ‘has not been the perfect scenario’ for them to work under.
Gomez stressed that the decision to part company with Fenwick was made due to ‘an affordability issue’.
Is it, Wired868 asked, that the normalisation committee was satisfied with the performance of the national team under Fenwick?
“Clearly Trinidad and Tobago has not been satisfied with the outcome, having been eliminated from the World Cup qualifiers,” said Gomez, “and clearly the impact of that is quite significant on the nation and the players. Whilst we are not happy about that and we need to deal with that, the fact is we remain very uncomfortable with the arrangements [with regards to Fenwick’s contract] that were in place that we met when we came in.
“That was always a matter of concern for us and we attempted to have conversations with that context [with Fenwick] that did not lead to any different outcome. And so, having regard to the development, we took the opportunity to make a decision as it relates to affordability; and to do something that was very different.
“We are hoping that this measure is going to create an opportunity, a change in leadership, a change in tone, a change in culture, some inspiration and motivation for the players… I think it is a really good opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago and for Angus.”
There may be several ways to interpret Gomez’s explanation, but surely one is that the normalisation committee seized on the team’s poor results to sack Fenwick—so as to avoid him triggering an extension to his contract and pay hike from US$20,000 to US$25,000, which he would have been due if Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the Gold Cup group stage.
On the surface, it might seem like a sensible financial precaution. Whether a high court judge would be so impressed about the explanation given for denying Fenwick the chance to achieve an extension written into his contract is another matter.
Would the normalisation committee have been happy to retain Fenwick if he was considerably cheaper, despite his inability to navigate the Warriors out of a group in which the highest ranked team was St Kitts and Nevis (ranked 135th in the world)?
Football fans can make their own minds up.
Paradoxically, affordability will not be enough for Eve to retain his post. And, unlike Fenwick, he was not set any performance target that would be deemed sufficient for an extension on his current deal.
Instead, Gomez said that Eve ‘will be free to apply for that position, as well as anybody domestically, regionally or internationally’ in August, when the normalisation committee invites applications for the full-time job based on established criteria.
Notably, the criteria set by the normalisation committee’s selection panel for a Women’s National Senior Team head coach did not lead to a single local getting on to the shortlist, although Police FC head coach Richard Hood previously took the Women’s National Senior Team to a Concacaf Championship semifinals and the Women’s Under-20 Team to the Concacaf quarterfinal phase.
Wired868 asked whether the normalisation committee would have someone with working knowledge of local coaches on its technical panel and if the criteria offered locals a fair opportunity.
Gomez, in response, said local knowledge should be important and the weighting of criteria would be discussed when the panel is convened.
“The process has not yet taken place,” he said.
Thus far, the normalisation committee retained American Constantine Konstin as head coach of the Men’s National Futsal Team, sanctioned the hiring of Spaniard Ramiro Amarelle for the Beach Soccer Team, and headhunted Welshman James Thomas for the Women’s National Senior Team.
The Hadad-led body has not given a single head position to a local coach since its appointment; and, arguably, the timeframe before the Gold Cup playoffs was too short for the NC to feasibly consider another foreigner. But August would be a different story when the committee decides on Fenwick’s long-term successor.
It is not a new problem for local football coaches, though. In the 31 full-time appointments—exclusive of the seven caretakers—since George Chambers became the TTFA’s first national head coach in 1964, 18 were foreigners and just 13 were locals.
For Eve, Trinidad and Tobago’s most capped senior team player with 117 international appearances and 34 goals, he said that he could not pass on the opportunity—despite the obvious issues and limitations of his scope.
“This is an opportunity that I could not walk by,” said Eve, who is the current coach of Club Sando FC and Naparima College. “I love Trinidad and Tobago—I had to take the chance. It is a difficult job […] but with the proper support, I still believe that we can achieve some level of success.
“I am going to give it the best that I can.”
Eve said he has already discussed his needs with the normalisation committee, which includes the welfare of the players. He did not go into detail on the latter, while the format of the press conference did not allow more than three questions by any journalist to either the new coach or the NC members.
Sixteen months after their appointment, the normalisation committee has still not held its first press conference to field questions related to its administration of the game.
Eve said he intends to utilise technology—an apparent blindspot of the Fenwick set-up—with his outfit and has identified a potential staff member specifically for that role.
“We will be utilising technology, video and everything we need to be an international team,” he said. “We cannot be an international team and do things halfway.”
A memo has made the rounds on social media, which suggests that Eve hopes to have Reynold Carrington (assistant coach), Hutson Charles (assistant coach), Clayton Ince (goalkeeper coach), Adarryl John (trainer) and Richard Piper (manager) as members of his technical staff.
Eve revealed that he has already discussed what lies ahead with his ‘staff’, without confirming any names. However, interim general secretary Amiel Mohammed made it clear that the normalisation committee has not yet hired anyone outside of Eve.
“I picked a cadre of key persons to work with me—people who have good experience in each of their fields,” said Eve. “I proposed the members of the staff that I wanted [to the normalisation committee]… The process is ongoing; salaries and so on have to be attached to their names.”
The new Warriors boss spoke in general terms about the team he inherited and the changes he hopes to bring for their next outing against Montserrat.
“Defensively the team was good, barring the US game we only conceded one goal,”said Eve. “We can be better because there were opportunities created against us, but definitely the weakness is goal scoring.
“[…] I can’t give away [our tactical ideas] on social media about [what we want to do against] Montserrat. But I think a word we can use is ‘passion’.
“I know the guys went through a lot and maybe they weren’t motivated enough in some of the games. But we have to get them up to that level, because the guys have ability.”
Mohammed said the normalisation committee is considering Eve’s request for a pre-tournament camp in Fort Lauderdale. In response to a media query about vaccinating the national players against Covid-19 vaccination, the general secretary said it was ‘premature’ to speak on that.
Eve suggested that there would be no scramble to identify new foreign-born players for the Gold Cup, after Fenwick spent much of his tenure trying in vain to get passports for the likes of Charlton Athletic defender Ryan Inniss and Kilmarnock FC attacker Rory McKenzie
“You can only coach the players that you have, so I will not be making public announcement about looking for this one or the other one,” said Eve. “I want to give [players] the confidence that I believe in them and we can get the job done together.”
Eve last coached at international level in 2012 when he led the National Under-23 Team to draws against Mexico, Ecuador and Uruguay in the Pan American Tournament, along with a draw against Panama and defeats to Mexico (7-1) and Honduras (2-0) at the Concacaf’s Olympic Games qualifiers.
It was his first job as head coach at any level.
The 49-year-old coach said he is constantly looking for ways to improve himself.
“I just did periodisation course with the Dutch FA a few weeks ago,” said Eve. “I also did a talent identification course with Brian Lewis at the TTOC. All of those things I am doing during Covid to keep myself on top of the game.
“It is all to achieve my ultimate goal of coaching at the highest level.”
No excuses, said Eve. He is ready for a baptism of fire.
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