New Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team interim head coach Kenwyne Jones vowed to help stabilise a traumatised team and build on the work of former coach James Thomas, as he faced the media for the first time this afternoon in a virtual press conference.
Jones, who has a Uefa A license but has never worked as a head coach, was appointed yesterday afternoon by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), after his immediate predecessor—American Futsal coach Constantine Konstin—allegedly lost the faith of the players and staff following a solitary training session on Saturday.
Konstin was hired last week after the substantive women’s head coach, Welshman James Thomas quit on 6 October to take up a position as Bristol City Women and Girls youth development manager.
Thomas’ former assistant and compatriot, Charlie Mitchell, coached the Women Soca Warriors in the interim.
Jones said the last few weeks have been ‘rough’ on the national team, which is preparing for competitive action in February in the 2022 Concacaf W Championship.
For the first time, the upcoming Concacaf tournament will determine the Confederation’s representatives at two major international competitions, the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“I think everyone is at peace at this present time,” said Jones, who is a former World Cup 2006 and England Premier League forward. “Obviously the trauma of the former head coach leaving so abruptly and also the fact of the other former coach being here for such a short period, I think it did traumatise the players and staff.
“But the good thing about it is a decision was made very quickly in order to bring stability to the set-up.”
Jones’ first stint in competitive football as a coach came in 2018 when he assisted Stern John with the Men’s National Under-17 Team and helped Nigel Grosvenor’s QRC team in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL).
He said he is honoured by the chance to launch his career as head coach.
“If this is the beginning of this stage of my career, so be it,” said Jones. “I am happy with it—I am not displeased. I don’t have any point of view on coaching women or men. At the end of the day, football is football.
“And what even makes it better is I am at home and I’m being able to give back of my experience and also learn along with the group that is presently here.”
Unlike with the presentation of Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve, no member of the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee attended Jones’ unveiling. So it meant nobody could speak to either the selection process for the current coach or Konstin’s farcical tenure at the helm.
Jones did not decline to address a single question at the press conference, though. Asked about how he came to land the job, he said a member of the normalisation committee offered it to him on Sunday evening; he had not applied for the post.
Despite early promises to the public and the local coaches association, the Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (UFCTT), normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad appears to have established a habit of hiring coaches without opening the job up for tender, seeking the technical expertise of any formal body, or even allowing for some degree of transparency in the process.
Local football stakeholders must pay for Hadad’s decisions out of their annual Fifa subvention.
Hadad apart, the normalisation committee comprises Judy Daniel, Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez.
Jones, who said he did ‘some coaching at the Atlanta United Academy’ before he retired, hopes to make the most of this opportunity.
“[Coaching] is not something that is strange to me,” he said. “I understand the principles of the structure of coaching. But again, having the coaching education is one thing, there is a practical that is needed behind it.
“At some point in time, any coach will have a space or a window to get in somewhere. I am very fortunate for it to be with the senior women’s national team and I am not going to take that opportunity lightly.”
Jones said he has not decided whether he will apply for the job on a permanent basis next month—if he will even need to, considering Hadad’s haphazard approach to selecting coaches.
At present, though, the current interim coach is focused on providing ‘stability’ to his squad. He noted that he was a regular face around the team under Thomas and intends to continue what the Welshman started.
“It is about being able to assist the staff with building on the foundation they would have had for the last few months already,” said Jones. “As far as I can see and as far as I know, they have done a fantastic job so far. All we can do is continue to add and build on that.
“[…] It is not a group I am unfamiliar with. It is just a matter of coming in and adding to the structure that was already set.”
Jones suggested that experience is the strength of his squad. At present, the training squad includes veterans like star attacker Kennya Cordner, midfielder Maylee Attin-Johnson, defender Lauryn Hutchinson and the Forbes sisters, goalkeeper Kimika and defender Karyn, still available from the nation’s thrilling Canada 2015 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Defender Arin King and goalkeeper Saundra Baron could feasibly rejoin the squad by next year too.
Jones wants his troops to be resilient, to command the ball with attacking intent and to express themselves.
He challenged the Women Warriors to use ‘the story’ of their coaching upheavals to ‘galvanise the team’.
“Every team needs a story to give it drive [and] a platform to maximise its potential,” he said.
Jones held his first training session with the team on Monday. From 3.30pm on Thursday, he faces his first international test against Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The game is closed to fans, although limited media personnel will be allowed to cover the event.
Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team to face Panama:
Kimika Forbes (Unattached), Tenesha Palmer (Unattached), Malaika Dedier (St Augustine FC), Collette Morgan (UTT FC), Rhea Belgrave (Police FC), Naomie Guerra (Unattached), Liana Hinds (IBV—Iceland), Anya DeCourcy (Roa W—Norway), Karyn Forbes (Unattached), Maylee Attin-Johnson Atlanta Panthers—USA), Lauryn Hutchinson (Unattached), Maya Matouk (Police FC), Aaliyah Prince (St Augustine FC), Dennecia Prince (Unattached), Laurelle Theodore (St Augustine FC), Victoria Swift (Club Leon—Mexico), Raenah Campbell (Avantes Chalkida WFC—Greece), Kennya Cordner (Il Sandviken—Norway), Chelcy Ralph (Unattached), Adrianna Arjoon (Unattached), Janelle McGee (Sacramento FC—USA), Jonelle Cato (Trincity Nationals), Meyah Romeo (Unattached).
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