Hart: I have not been contacted! Coach denies link to Soca Warriors job

EPL Infrafred Sauna

Former Soca Warriors head coach Stephen Hart has denied holding any talks with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) regarding the position of Men’s National Senior Team head coach.

A Trinidad Guardian article today, headlined “Hart set for Soca Warriors return”, claimed that the Canada-based coach was the favoured choice of the local football body—run by a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee—and had already been approached about the position.

Then Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart (centre) and players (from right) Mekeil Williams, Daneil Cyrus, Kenwyne Jones, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Sheldon Bateau at a national training session.
Photo: Allan V Crane/ CA Images/ Wired868

There was a suggestion too that former Soca Warriors forward Kenwyne Jones, who captained the national team during Hart’s tenure, turned down a chance to be Women’s National Senior Team head coach to serve as Hart’s assistant instead.

However, Hart denied holding any talks with the TTFA or Normalisation Committee—whether formal or otherwise—about the job.

As far as he is concerned, the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Team already has a coach: and it is Angus Eve.

“I have not been contacted, or had discussions on coaching Trinidad and Tobago,” Hart told Wired868.

He declined comment on whether he would be open to such talks, if indeed the position became vacant.

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s NatIonal Senior Team head coach Angus Eve (third from left) and his coaching staff look dejected after they failed to defeat Nicaragua in a decisive Concacaf Nations League B clash at Bacolet on 27 March 2023.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Belatedly, the TTFA also distanced itself from the Guardian story on Tuesday night.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) advises that it has made no decision regarding the composition of the national senior men’s team’s technical staff,” stated a TTFA release. “Reports on the appointment of a new coach are purely speculative and without foundation.”

Eve’s two-year term as head coach ends this month and it is uncertain whether he plans to reapply for the job.

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Angus Eve (right) and Jamaica head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson watch on from the sidelines during their Concacaf Gold Cup clash in Missouri on 28 June 2023.
Jamaica won 4-1.
(via TTFA Media)

In the aftermath of Trinidad and Tobago’s exit from the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup on a joint-record 6-0 loss to the United States, the coach allegedly told a few senior players that he was stepping aside.

However, he is yet to formally advise the Normalisation Committee of his intentions.

The appointment of coaches is usually made by the TTFA’s board of directors, on the recommendation of a technical committee. But, three years since its appointment, the Robert Hadad-led Normalisation Committee is yet to re-activate any standing committees.

Hadad and vice-presidents Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez can therefore either appoint a coach themselves to lead the two-island republic, or set up an ad-hoc committee to assist in the process.

Technical director Anton Corneal would likely be involved if they choose the latter scenario.

Former Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart.

Hart, 63, was first hired to spearhead the Soca Warriors technical staff on 18 June 2013, after being head-hunted by then general secretary Sheldon Phillips—just weeks before the 2013 Gold Cup tournament.

At the time, the Men’s National Team were on the rise under the leadership of co-head coaches Hutson “Baba” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz and assistant Derek King and had just qualified for the Concacaf showcase tournament for the first time in eight years.

Phillips and then TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee felt Hart was better equipped to continue the team’s progression, though.

Then Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart juggles a football during practice before his team’s 2016 Copa America play off contest against Haiti.
(Copyright AFP 2016)

The Warriors were ranked 81st in the world and eighth in Concacaf by Fifa when Hart joined and they climbed steadily since then to a high of 49th (and fourth in Concacaf, behind only the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica) at the end of 2015.

During that period, Trinidad and Tobago qualified for successive Gold Cup quarterfinals.

In 2013, the Soca Warriors advanced second from a group that included Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. Two years later, they finished top of a group that included Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala, following a thrilling 3-3 draw against Mexico.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings (third from right) celebrates his second strike against Mexico with teammates (from right) Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Kevan George at the 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup on 15 July 2015.
(Copyright Nicholas Kamm/ AFP 2015)

However, the team suffered a dramatic change of fortune once the late David John-Williams replaced Tim Kee as TTFA president on 29 November 2015. And, in November 2016, John-Williams fired Hart at Ruby Tuesdays in Grand Bazaar.

Trinidad and Tobago were 78th in the world and seventh in Concacaf at the time.

Hart, a former St Benedict’s College student, was hired by HFX Wanderers in 2018 and led the Canadian Premier League (CPL) team to the runner-up position in 2020, when he was also named the CPL Coach of the Year.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Stephen Hart poses with the Owl Trophy, after being named the Canadian Premier League’s 2020 Coach of the Year.
(via CPL)

He was subsequently released from his duties last year and has not taken up another job coaching since.

In the seven years since Hart left Trinidad and Tobago, the TTFA hired Tom Saintfiet, Dennis Lawrence, Terry Fenwick and, finally, Eve. None could reverse the slide as Trinidad and Tobago fell to a low of 106th place under Lawrence and mustered only a gentle rise to 101st under Eve.

Eve does have the distinction of being the only coach to get Trinidad and Tobago to the Gold Cup since Hart; and he did it twice. (Although Lawrence led the Warriors at the 2019 Gold Cup, they won qualification based on getting to the Hex during Hart’s tenure.)

Soca Warriors head coach Angus Eve (centre) congratulates his players during their Concacaf Nations League B win over the Bahamas on 24 March 2023.
(via TTFA Media)

Whether he voluntarily steps aside or not, Eve’s contract has only weeks remaining.

The Normalisation Committee will have a choice to make soon. Hart has not received a proposal from the local governing body though—formally or otherwise.

More from Wired868
Eve expected to step aside; Wired868 reviews ups and downs of outgoing T&T coach

Angus Eve has allegedly told players that he will not seek a renewal for his post as Trinidad and Tobago Read more

Stop fighting down a black coach! Eve attacks “critics” before T&T/ USA clash

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve waded into his perceived critics—and, in particular, a former Read more

Qatar 2022: Hart looks beyond W/Cup drama to “cookie cutter” players and absent national identity

“[…] Perhaps I just long for the era that made me fall in love with the game—when national teams had distinct styles, based Read more

B&B Ep 2: Hart on coaching T&T, strained relations with DJW and that USA mauling

You asked for this… So don’t blame us! Burdie and Barney are back with Episode Two, as we speak to Read more

The strain, the support, Molino… Wired868’s final chat with Stephen Hart as T&T coach

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve reached my second goal,” Stephen Hart told Wired868. “My first goal was to bring Read more

Radanfah: Maximising Levi’s talent, why Natty’s a dread attacker and T&T’s inhibited talent pool

“[…] Trinidad and Tobago players are limited in their exposure to top level football [and] it makes it difficult for Read more

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

Check Also

Soca Warriors play Canada for Copa America spot, after Jamaica stun N/Americans

The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team will play Canada for a spot in …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.