DEREK KING, coach of the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 football team, is calling on improved preparations for future national youth teams, if they are to succeed at the Concacaf level.
King was speaking in a recent interview, after the national team were unable to book a place at the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
At last month’s Concacaf Championships, Trinidad and Tobago began Group A with a 2-2 draw against hosts Jamaica on January 9, and followed up with a 5-1 hammering of Aruba two days later. But that was as good as it got for the TT team, as they lost 2-0 to Guatemala (January 14), 1-0 to Panama (January 18) and 1-0 to the United States (January 21) to finish the group in fourth spot with four points.
Reflecting on the trip, King said, “it was a good one. Preparation was a key part but we don’t want to make excuses. The guys did well (despite) playing no games before the tournament.
“Canada and the US, they toured Europe and Jamaica had a good preparation,” he added. “The (TT) guys held up well.”
King admitted that the lack of goals affected the team badly “but when we analyse the whole tournament, we matched those teams.”
He made a call to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) to do their best to keep the team together, for competition at the Under-23 and senior team levels.
“We realised that we could match those teams at the international level but the players need to get the exposure. The only way they could get the exposure is by playing friendly internationals.”
King, who serves as assistant to coach Stephen Hart with the national men’s team, also mentioned the inability of the players to remain focused from start to finish.
“I think lack of concentration had a part to play,” said King. “We have to concentrate for 90 minutes plus, especially when you’re playing at the international level, because you can’t afford, more or less, to give the teams (any) opportunity. Fitness-wise still have a part to play but, all and all, it’s the exposure these guys need to play at this level and concentrate for 90-plus minutes.”
Trinidad and Tobago copped the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) title in September, on home soil, but King publicly expressed his concerns that a number of players returned to play at the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) instead of featuring at the Pro League and Super League levels.
“After the CFU, we didn’t really have much time together as a team,” King acknowledged. “Some of the players went back (to) the school level.
“When we analyse the players who stand out, it was the players who were playing at the highest level. That’s a plus and we hope that these players could really go on and represent their clubs, especially (at) the Pro League level.”
Looking back at the Concacaf Championships, King stated, “it was a very good experience. It’s a learning experience. We were very disappointed that we didn’t qualify but we had some good performances from the team itself.
“The most important thing as a coach (is that) I learnt a lot because this is the first time I’ve been a coach in a tournament like this, don’t mind I coached at the Concacaf level with Joe Public,” he added. “It’s a nice learning experience and I hope I can build on it."