Despite not putting pen to paper on a new contract as yet, Stephen Hart is set to stay on as coach of the T&T Soca Warriors team for a long time to come. This was the assurance given by T&T Football Association (T&TFA) president Raymond Tim Kee while speaking at a media conference at the VIP Lounge, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Friday.
Overall, the T&T coach who is currently on vacation with his family in Canada, has been at the helm of the national team for 25 matches, winning 12 and losing nine with four ending in drawn results. However, since being appointed, Hart’s tenure has been blighted by a feud involving Minister of Sports and former national defender Brent Sancho and Tim Kee which sometimes left the San Fernando-born coach and his part-time technical staff without salaries for months.
Despite the growing frustrations, Hart has been given a very high passing grade by many, and while his current contract ended following the Gold Cup and the T&TFA continues to struggle to generate funding, Tim Kee is certain that the T&T born coach will be staying on for a very long time.
Questioned on if Hart had already signed a new contract, Tim Kee said everything was being put in place for the out of contract coach to do so on his return home from Canada, but he did not want to speak much about it until Hart was present as a form of respect. “I’m not in the habit of speaking about someone’s contract or salary terms when they are not present, so I will prefer to discuss it more at another media briefing when Hart is present,” the T&TFA boss said.
And even though the coach is yet to officially sign a new deal, national goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams believes he is the right man to take the team where it wants to go. Commenting on the impact on the team by Hart, the T&T goalkeeper said the results under the coach are there to be seen by all. He said, “When coach Hart came on board, it was the first time since 2000 we had qualified for the knockout round of the Gold Cup.
“I think what he has, that other coaches did not have in the past, is that he has that international experience and pedigree, having coached the likes of Canada, and he was born right here, so he actually knows the culture and the people of T&T very well. “He knows his players very well also. He knows when the guys are joking around, how to push us and how to get into our brains and I am really excited going into this 2018 Russia World Cup campaign.”
Soca Warriors to play three matches before USA qualifier
T&T Soca Warriors will have the benefit of three international warm-ups between September and October and possibly two Copa America 2016 playoff matches before meeting powerhouse USA in the semifinal round Concacaf 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying, Group C opener, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on November 17.
This was confirmed by the T&T Football Association national teams Operations Manager, William Wallace while speaking to the media at the VIP Lounge, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on Friday. Wallace said two matches that have been confirmed are a clash against Mexico on September 4 in Salt Lake City, Utah, which everyone will be looking forward to based on the Soca Warriors showing against them at the Concacaf Gold Cup in the USA last month.
With regards to the upcoming Mexico match, which comes less than two months after a 4–4 thriller at the Gold Cup, Wallace said, “Again, this well be added pressure on the players, but they also have to understand we have to keep the momentum going. “We have to continue to build on what we started and if that is what it takes to bring T&T and the corporate sector on board then they have to understand their role in that.
“We then move on to October, where we have two available Fifa international dates and we already have confirmed a warm-up match with Panama in Panama City, and then the question is if we have any games here in T&T, and we are currently working on that for the other Fifa date in the month (October 13).
However, the T&TFA may have to put off any possible friendly engagements set for October 13, as it may coincide with the first leg of their playoff against Haiti for a spot at next year’s Copa America Championship, the 100th edition, which will be held in the USA. The 16-nation Centenario is scheduled to run from June 3-26 and include the ten South American teams and six invited teams from Concacaf, led by USA and Mexico, the recent Gold Cup winners.
The South American contingent includes Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, while recent Gold Cup runner-up Jamaica and Costa Rica have sealed places from Concacaf and will be joined by the winners of the T&T/Haiti, and Panama/Cuba home-and-away ties.
T&T will then enter November 17 where its faces USA in its opening Group C Concacaf semifinal round of World Cup qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup. The Soca Warriors will also come up against the winners of the St Vincent/Grenadines versus Aruba and Guatemala versus Antigua/Barbuda ties.
However, with only the coach Stephen Hart being employed on a full-time basis as part of the technical staff team, Wallace also pointed out that there was a great need for more staff to be added for the national team. He explained: “We have done a comparative study and the T&T team in terms of staff, we have the least numbers compared to the other teams who were at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
“We saw teams with 20-odd persons as technical staff members, but people here in T&T are complaining that we have 12 members. “Every single member of staff has a role to play and when you look at teams like Mexico which operates with a budget of over US$100 million and you see at a tournament like the Olympic qualifiers in 2012 they even brought their own cooks.
“You were not seeing their players even though we were in the same hotel, as they occupied their own floor, and they functioned professionally at that level with a full complement of staff, but we here are still fighting sometimes to take our boys across the road just to get burgers.
“So, again we have to feel very proud when we can go out there and compete and achieve what we do, and this is saying to us that we have a product, and if we can put the necessary support systems behind this product, just imagine where it can take us,” said Wallace.