Former St Ann’s Rangers coach Jason Spence is set for a return to the international game after he was announced as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s new head coach of the Women’s National Under-17 and Under-20 Teams.
Spence will lead the U-20s into the Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship from 25 February 2022 in the Dominican Republic, while the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship kicks off on 23 April 2022.
His support staff includes Dernelle Mascall, Desiree Sarjeant (both assistant coaches), Trevor Nottingham (goalkeeper coach), Vernetta Flanders (team manager) and Natalie Harper (equipment manager).
Via a media release, the TTFA said its technical department ‘worked with Spence to evaluate numerous candidates for the other staff roles’ based on ‘prior experience with national teams and active coaching accreditation’ and looked at résumés ‘received over the last 18 to 24 months’.
The local football body committed to announcing a rehab specialist and strength and conditioning coach in the future.
“I am indeed humbled by the demonstration of confidence the TTFA/normalisation committee has placed in me,” Spence told the TTFA Media. “More importantly, I know the players themselves will be excited to get back on the field to do what they love.
“Women’s football continues to be my passion and I am eager to get to work. As it relates to the preparation for the tournament, it is no secret that the time frame—especially for the Concacaf level—is very short; however, my very capable staff and I are committed to doing our best.”
Once more, the normalisation committee, led by chairman Robert Hadad, did not offer any details regarding the hiring process for the head coaching position while none of the vacancies were advertised.
The latest round of hirings now ensures that former Women’s National Senior and Youth team coach Richard Hood has been frozen out, despite being the only coach to take a local team to the Concacaf quarterfinals since Stephen Hart in 2015.
Hood criticised the normalisation committee after he was overlooked for the post of Women’s National Senior Team head coach and assistant coach earlier this year.
Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (UFCTT) interim president Jefferson George confirmed that the normalisation committee did not liaise with the local coaching body over staffing for the Women’s Under-17 and Under-20 Teams—as has become the norm during the Hadad era.
“I think they are missing a really good opportunity while football is down to get a large portion of the football community back onside,” said George, who represented Trinidad and Tobago as a player and national youth team goalkeeper coach. “It is not a matter of trying to buy people’s approval, but do [the appointments] in a way that benefits the football community.
“Even for the coaches who are selected, you want the coaches who were not [hired] to support them; and for that to happen, it has to be seen as an ‘us’ thing and not a ‘them’ thing. We have to be a part of the process.”
At present, the TTFA does not have a duly constituted technical committee to advise the normalisation committee, which means decisions are taken at the whim of Hadad, vice-chair Judy Daniel and floor members Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez.
However, Spence’s appointment is not nearly as eye-raising as was the hiring of rookie Kenwyne Jones to lead the Women’s National Senior Team.
The former Rangers coach has now been hired by three successive football administrations. He was first appointed to coach the Women’s National Under-20 Team during the Raymond Tim Kee era in 2015 and re-hired as Women’s National Under-15 head coach under the William Wallace administration in 2020.
Mascall and Nottingham were both members of his staff last year although the team never entered competitive action owing to the global outbreak of Covid-19.
In 2015, Spence’s team finished third at Caribbean Football Union (CFU) level and then bottom of a Concacaf group that included Jamaica and Honduras—with one goal scored and 10 conceded.
At least he won’t be naive about the challenge ahead for his team, screening for which is due to begin over the Christmas period.
Players born on or after 1 January 2005 are asked to try out for the Women’s U-17 Team while players born on or after 1 January 2002 are eligible for the U-20s.
“To ensure we put the best possible team together, screening sessions will begin from next week,” said Spence. “The plan is to conduct four days of screening over the next two weeks, both in Trinidad and in Tobago simultaneously once we finalise discussions with the necessary stakeholders.
“We want to look at all possible players, giving each player an equal opportunity.
“As we know we are in a very challenging environment with the pandemic, which brought football to a halt approximately 20 months ago. I am calling on the ‘12th man’ to give their full positive support as we set out on this journey with our young women to represent our country to the best of our ability.”
Players who wish to try out for either the Women’s Under-17 or Women’s Under-20 Team can pre-register for screening by clicking HERE to complete the attached form.
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