Stern John bristled with indignation as he spoke to a British television crew on the eve of Trinidad and Tobago's friendly international match against Iceland in London on February 28.

The Trinidad and Tobago and Coventry City striker was displeased at the efforts of football opportunists to get into the national team for the 2006 World Cup tournament in Germany.

"These players were not interested in playing for us during the qualifiers," said John. "But now that we are in the World Cup, they want to come and play."

John did not call names but it seemed a thinly-veiled reference to versatile Aston Villa full back Jlloyd Samuel and talented West Ham forward Bobby Zamora.

Both players have Trinidadian parentage-Samuel grew up in San Fernando-but represented England at youth level and dreamed of lining up with the European superpower in Germany.

Trinidad and Tobago was to be a convenient safety net for the pair once they came to terms with England coach Sven Goran Erikkson's disinterest.

John refused to welcome any such "Johnny-come-lately" to the national squad.

Thirty-one-year-old Fulham goalkeeper Anthony Warner is no such "bandwagonist".

Five years ago, Warner offered his services to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) for national duty in similar if not more emphatic circumstances than current "Soca Warrior" and England-born Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall.

The only difference is that Birchall was accepted by present T&T coach, Dutchman Leo Beenhakker.

Warner, on the other hand, was ignored by the Trinidad and Tobago boss at the time, Scotsman Ian Porterfield.

Porterfield will forever be remembered at Chelsea-albeit in less than fond terms-for ruthlessly dispensing of goalkeeper Dave Beasant after a costly error in league competition while he managed the English top flight club.

Clearly, though, Porterfield felt he was sufficiently blessed in the goalkeeping department to spurn Warner's advances. He used Shaka Hislop and Clayton Ince-now at West Ham and Coventry, respectively-for much of his stint as national coach, while his replacement, Brazilian Rene Simoes, promoted the 25-year-old Kelvin Jack to the role of deputy in the same 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The same three comprise the national goalkeeping staff today, although Jack has now grabbed the number one jersey.

Fortuitous circumstances have since made Warner a more attractive prospect. Five years ago, he was in England's First Division at Millwall after failing to break into the Liverpool starting line-up.

This season, though, Fulham's sale of Edwin van der Sar to Manchester United and an injury to his number two Mark Crossley gave Warner the opportunity to become a genuine England Premier League goalkeeper. He is understood to have acquitted himself capably.

Fulham purchased Finland goalkeeper Antti Niemi in the January transfer window to be their first choice but he too succumbed to injury and Warner's productive season continues.

Hats off to Warner for his accomplishment, but should it make Trinidad and Tobago suddenly dissatisfied with its own goalkeepers?

As the present number three, Ince's position seems most at risk. The situation is not helped by his failure to break into the Coventry first team or his public fall-out with Beenhakker near the start of his employment.

On the eve of a World Cup qualifier away to Mexico on June 7, Ince withdrew his services in a huff. He claimed a leg injury but it was clear that the more serious wound was inflicted upon his professional pride.

He had accepted life as deputy to Hislop and even flourished as stand-in. Hislop's frequent absences saw Ince rack up more caps than his number one and a string of awards to boot.

When Hislop conceded five goals away to Guatemala in a March qualifier, it was Ince who took his place and kept a clean sheet in the following fixture against Costa Rica at home.

He lost his temper at Beenhakker's demotion and threw his toys out of the pram.

For accuracy's sake, it should be noted that Beenhakker's predecessor made Jack his number one during the semi-final stage of qualifying only to lose the Dundee goalkeeper soon after through injury.

To err is human...Ince's contribution to Trinidad and Tobago football goes well beyond a childish fit.

The number one for T&T's first FIFA adventure in 1991 at the Under-20 World Cup in Portugal, Ince waited six years for the chance to cement his place at senior level and did not disappoint when it came.

In 1997, coach Bertille St Clair rescued him from the Defence Force reserves for Caribbean Cup duty and Ince went on claim three Caribbean "Goalkeeper of the Year" accolades, as well as a T&TFF "Player of the Year" award.

His arrival coincided with the winding down of Ross Russell's career as international first choice, as well as Hislop's introduction as his replacement in 1999.

But the record books would remember Ince with great affection as he managed nine clean sheets in World Cup qualifying matches despite the inconvenience of often being number two.

Only present goalkeeping coach and former standout, Michael Maurice, managed as many.

Ince's four successive shut-outs against Canada, Mexico, Panama and Canada again in the 2002 qualifying series is the best run ever by a local goalie-Maurice achieved three consecutive clean sheets in the 1982 and 1990 campaigns, while Kelvin Barclay did it once during the 1974 series.

Beenhakker could find examples of the benefits of forgiveness within his own squad as team captain Dwight Yorke and playmaker Russell Latapy are far from blameless during their international careers.

But, of course, the best way to select a squad is on one's intrinsic value to the team and Beenhakker could point out that Yorke and Latapy are hardly sympathetic picks.

The Dutchman may simply ask his goalkeeping coach: "Well, who is better, Warner or Ince?"

The team is bigger than the individual, the country even more important than the team.

I agree with Express columnist Fazeer Mohammed's stance on the importance of a national identity within our ranks at Germany. But I concede that, if we defeat England or qualify for the second round, the name "Trinidad and Tobago" would roll more easily off the tongues of global sporting enthusiasts for years.

A tourism official might argue, with some justification, that it is worth a dent in pride to achieve this.

For some, the end justifies the means and I would accept Beenhakker's decision on this basis and wish Warner well.

But, if Warner offers no guarantee of such a miracle, then I do not see the point of his inclusion-at this stage-barring injury to any of our three regular goalkeepers.

At present, Ince is third choice. Can Warner do better? Can he displace Jack, let alone give Beenhakker some certainty of a clean sheet against England?

Is he significantly better than the goalkeepers we have at present?

No? Then I rest Clayton's case.