Thu, Jun

TRINI IN TAIWAN: Trinidadian Wayne Sheppard, centre, gives instructions to his charges at Inter Taoyuan in Taiwan.

Former Fatima College coach Wayne Sheppard began his stint in the Taiwan Football League. with a big 7-1 victory for second division Inter Taoyuan.

Having been recommended by Derek King—the former assistant coach to Trinidad and Tobago’s men national team—Sheppard is determined to make full use of the opportunity.

“Very appreciative and thankful of the opportunity to be coaching when many of my more accomplished compatriots don’t have that opportunity just yet because of Covid restrictions,” said Sheppard, who gave special thanks to King who recommended him.

A vice-president of the Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (UFCTT), Sheppard is both a former youth national footballer and former Queen’s Park (QPCC) wing-back.

Later, “Sheppy” transitioned to coaching at QPCC, as assistant to Shawn Cooper, the former national men’s youth and national women’s team coach.

Sheppard also had coaching roles at Arima North Government and Fatima College at Secondary Schools Football League level, before being appointed to a short-lived role as national Under-15 boys head coach under the William-Wallace-led administration of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association. However, a few months ago, he was offered the chance to work in Asia at Taiwan’s Inter Taoyuan.

Having found that team fitness wasn’t at the level he would have liked, and with limited time to have his new charges playing how he would have liked, Sheppard admitted being nervous approaching his first game in charge.

“The first game had a lot of nerves in it for me,” he revealed, “The day before, I didn’t sleep, as we had only three weeks to prepare for our first game on the league’s resumption.”

In Taiwan, Sheppard met a very small, but well-structured club, which had a revenue-generating academy.

Inter Taoyuan also have a futsal team, a women’s team playing in the Premier Division and a second division men’s team.

“The administration staff is small but have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable and make this experience a totally positive (one),” Sheppard said of his stint thus far.

In the opening 7-1 win for Inter Taoyuan, Sheppard got a special performance from right winger Sheung Wei, who scored a hat-trick and provided two assists, excelling inside of the 4-3-3 formation his new coach employed.

However, the Trinidadian coach cautioned that the match was not as easy as it might have seemed.

“The team we played today was in fourth place in the table at the start of the rounds and we were fifth. The scoreline suggests total domination, but it was anything but, until about 20 minutes to go when we scored our fourth goal.”

Sheppard also admitted having to put a lid on the celebrations, given the weight of expectations from the club.

“Everyone was happy,” he said. “I’m trying to keep us grounded as the performance left a lot to be desired, when we compare what we executed against what we practised.”

“The club has aspirations of getting promoted this season to the Premier (Division) after missing out on promotion last year in the playoffs. But we dug a hole for ourselves by losing the first three games and winning one before I arrived,” he explained. “So now we are playing catch-up to try to at least get the playoff spot (second place), if not win the league and get automatically promoted.”

By his last game on November 27, Sheppard hopes to have Inter Taoyuan at least in a playoff spot and if successful, will have discussions with club management about a contract extension into the 2022 season.

Sheppard has found Taiwan to be a very modern country, with beautiful architecture, skyscrapers, a high-speed rail service and other amenities associated with a modern country, as well as plenty green spaces in the city areas.

When he arrived in Taiwan, there was a spike in Covid-19 infections, but other than gyms, cinemas, clubs and in-house dining being prohibited, the country is operating as normal. But while there is no lock-down, Covid-19 protocols are strictly instituted.

There are no crowds allowed at matches and only the 23-player squad and staff are allowed. PCR rapid testing or antigen testing is done prior to entry and if his players don’t train with masks, the city government shuts down training.

While all is going well on the football field, for Sheppard there was at least one surprise.

“The language is a definite struggle but I’m progressing. I thought I was doing fine, until I did a session with the women’s team. At the end of the session, the women told me my Mandarin is horrible,” he said. “Women are a little more straightforward and brutally honest. But I’m committed to learning it, so I will.”

“My Mandarin is good enough to move around the city, order subway tickets, ask for directions, etc. But the football jargon is coming slowly,” he said.

SOURCE: T&T Express