Derek King, coach of 2017 TT Pro League champions North East Stars, is looking for the opportunity to guide his team at the 2018 CONCACAF Club Championships.
The former Trinidad and Tobago team defender and assistant coach recently spoke on his successful season with the now Arima-based team, as well as winning the league crown with his second team, having done the same with Joe Public in 2009.
JOEL BAILEY (JB): How it feels to win the title again, having won it with Joe Public?
DEREK KING (DK): It feels good being back, coaching in club football. I haven’t been there (for) six or seven years. It’s a joy coaching every day. With the national team, you go to watch games and then you’ll prepare a team about five days before a game. It’s good. At the end of the day, it’s a joy to have players that I’ve really worked with before – Akeem Garcia, (Duane) Muckette, (Jomoul) Francois, (Kevon) Goddard, players that I’ve worked with in the national Under-20 team. Densill (Theobald), we played together for a short time at Joe Public, Yohance (Marshall), (Rundell) Winchester worked with me with the national set-up. So (they are) players that I’m accustomed with and they know my philosophy. It’s my first time back and we won the League.
JB: How hard was it to move the team from Sangre Grande to Arima?
DK: Before the season, we really were supposed to have a takeover of the club (by Terry) Fenwick. Things didn’t work out and our general manager Darryl Mahabir, I think his plan was, more or less, to ease up from the football because of other issues. (However) he’s back in the football and we have to say thanks for him for his support. We built a relationship with the Arima Mayor (Lisa Morris-Julian) and the Arima community, to get the team to use the Velodrome as our base. We have to applaud the Arima community for that support. From here on, we can grow from strength to strength.
JB: Your time with former TT coach Stephen Hart, how did you benefit as a coach?
DK: I’ve maintained a good relationship with Stephen Hart and Hutson Charles. Working at the international level, I’ve gained that experience. I’ve gained a lot from Stephen, knowing (he) is a coach that would always give you that opportunity to express yourself. That was a key point in my coaching career because I’m a young coach and I’m still learning. I think he was doing the right thing, pertaining to Trinidad football. So be it, it didn’t work out. It’s something that I’ve really continued and it worked for me, at club level.
JB: Where are you setting his sights now with the Stars team?
DK: You’ll have a core of players but next year please God, you’ll be looking to improve. It will have some players who would be here (and some) who wouldn’t be here. I’ll have to sit down and analyse with the rest of the staff. I’ll want to applaud the staff for a wonderful job. From there we’ll decide where we can add. We’ll need to improve in certain areas.
JB: As a coach, where do you think you have improved from Joe Public to now?
DK: Tactically because, in international football, you have to know your opponent. You have to analyse and you have to know your strengths. Our strength this year was our pace. I analysed that you have to play faster in football if you want to improve at the highest level.
JB: The elder statesmen on the team, like Kerry Baptiste and Theobald, how long do you see them being involved in the team and, by extension, in the Pro League?
DK: Densill is a professional, he keeps himself fit. Kerry Baptiste is one of the natural goal-scorers it have in Trinidad football. When you watch (Devorn) Jorsling, they might be over 30 but I think these guys have the knowledge. It’s good to see these guys still involved to help the young ones. But, at the end of the day, as an older player, you must bring the correct attitude towards the (game). These players have that.
JB: How have North East coped with the financial issues?
DK: I think the finance (problem) really affected the League this year and I’m hoping (whoever) come on board, whether it’s the Ministry (of Sports and Youth Affairs) or corporate sponsors, I’m pleading with you to come on board. We need sponsors. At the end of the day, this is the only way that Trinidad and Tobago football could develop. With the level of football that we’ll get in the Pro League, it has to be of a certain standard so it can help the national team. With North East Stars, to be fair to Darryl Mahabir, we (should) have on board now Ryan Nunes as a co-owner, to help out with the finances.
I think they’re really trying, and they were honest. That played a big part. Right now, no player is being owed salaries and you have to give credit to these guys for their support.