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Trinidad and Tobago youth footballers Jesse Williams and Gary Griffith III have not signed professional contracts with Northern Irish Club Coleraine FC, but may be installed in the academy team of the 2019-2020 Danske Bank Premiership runners-up, which offers a progression path to the first team.

Both national Under-20 players were recently on trial at League Cup winners Coleraine. Belfast Telegraph/Sunday Life reporter Michael Anderson confirmed that the T&T footballers remained uncontracted.

“Gary Griffith III and Jesse Williams have not yet sealed their move to the Showgrounds despite speculation on social media,” Anderson wrote, “The Trinidad and Tobago duo featured in a recent friendly with Loughgall.”

The players were recommended to first team manager Oran Kearney, who said at the time the club would monitor their progress. There is said to be some interest by the club in the players who, if eventually signed, would need both international clearance and Home Office clearance for the process to be completed.

Neither player have a senior international cap for Trinidad and Tobago, usually a requirement to get British Home Office clearance. Neither player was named when Coleraine announced its 2020-2021 senior squad, and they also were not mentioned among the official off-season recruits.

“Our summer recruits have taken the following numbers in brackets; Gareth Deane (1), Ronan Wilson (12), Evan Tweed (14) and Howard Beverland (22). Curtis Allen – who wore the number 35 jersey after signing in January – will now wear number 19, with Stewart Nixon taking number 21. Goalkeeper Martin Gallagher will now wear number 20.

Coleraine is one of several Irish football clubs going through severe financial difficulties brought on by Covid-19 restrictions. Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry says his primary focus remains on club survival.

“We need financial support quickly and the NI Football League, made representations to Stormont earlier this week,” McKendry said. “If we don’t secure additional funding, then I am not sure what will happen.”

The financial impact has seen Coleraine recently announce the restructuring of its youth programme to provide a clear pathway from the club’s junior ranks to Oran Kearney’s senior team.

“This is an exciting time for the youth footballers at Coleraine FC and the restructuring will ensure a clear identifiable pathway for progression at the club,” McKendry said.

In August, former Aston Villa and England international David Platt was appointed as the new Junior Academy Director at the club in charge of the Soccer School, seven and nine-a-side teams, and teams up to Under-15. Ollie Mullan is the Senior Academy Director in charge of U-16, 18 and 20 youth teams.



Griffith, Williams eager to start pro careers
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).

T&T YOUTH team footballers Gary Griffith III and Jesse Williams are eager to get their professional careers under way, having recently signed with Coleraine FC in the Northern Ireland Premier League.

The pair spoke during an interview on the TTFA (TT Football Association) Youtube channel on October 9.

The 17-year-old Griffith III, son of Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, is on a football scholarship with Sunderland College, England, while Williams, an 18-year-old defender, was previously attached to Pro League club Central FC.

Griffith played as a striker for North East Stars (now AC Port of Spain) in the Youth Pro League and Williams featured in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) with St Anthony’s College.

Questioned about their experiences so far in Northern Ireland, Griffith replied, “(It’s) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. With this pandemic, to leave to go (to) Barbados, we got retested. All these things were like a setback, because we were getting tested and tested.

“Aside from that, the lads in Coleraine (were) exceptional, very welcoming and I felt like part of the family. The experience has been going great.”

Williams said, “This journey was quite difficult at times. We had to be tested on several occasions because of this pandemic.”

But, he said, “The lads welcomed us so we felt like home. The (transitioning) was quite good because it’s football we came to play. This is what we signed up for and this is what we want. We went out and gave our best and there comes the result.”

The pair spoke about the bond they have built as they seek to enter a new phase of their footballing lives.

Griffith said, “It’s a camaraderie. It’s really good that we keep pushing each other to do our best. We have the same culture in a new country, so it’ll be easy to get comfortable and easier to acclimatise.

“We both share each other’s company. It has been easy to get accustomed to the new surroundings.”

Williams mentioned, “Having him on board with me is quite good. It makes life much easier for me. Not only Gary but his family supported me. I’m grateful and thankful for that. That made me push even harder with him.”

Williams added, “I believe in God. I was being prepared mentally for it and it (came), so I’m thankful.”

Griffith is setting his sights on representing T&T at the international level one day.

“This whole situation (with the TTFA against FIFA) is beyond our control and we can hope that the best result comes out for us as players. I can’t wait to represent my country,” he said.

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