Trinidad and Tobago defender Brent Sancho's 2006 World Cup dreams got a massive boost yesterday when England League One club Swansea offered a rescue package to the out-of-favour Gillingham employee.
Sancho moves from relegation-threatened Gillingham to third-placed Swansea, who are pushing for automatic promotion to England's Championship Division, on a two-month loan deal that can become permanent this summer if player and club are happy.
Yesterday morning, Sancho was ordered to train with Gillingham's youth team for the first time by manager Ronnie Jepson. A voice message confirming Swansea's interest was on his cellular phone after training. Within hours, Sancho packed and started a four-hour drive to the Wales-based club.
"God is great," said Sancho. "Today was my lowest point and then this happened. God works in mysterious ways."
The loan move could also salvage Sancho's place in the World Cup squad. The defender looked on from the stand last Tuesday at Lostus Road, London where Trinidad and Tobago whipped Iceland 2-0 in an international friendly.
Sancho spoke to national coach Leo Beenhakker after the game and was told he must play regular first team football or risk missing out on the Germany World Cup.
"Of course I was afraid (to miss out on the World Cup)," said Sancho. "I definitely had that fear of missing out, although I feel I should be on the team.
"I don't just want to make up the numbers either. I want to be a starter and help put Trinidad and Tobago and myself on the map."
It was Sancho's desperation to represent the "Soca Warriors" that got him in trouble at Gillingham in the first place.
He was still recovering from injury when T&T's first leg fixture against Bahrain loomed on November 12 last year. Gillingham chairman Paul Scally said he was not ready. Sancho went anyway.
Beenhakkar did not use Sancho in the two-legged World Cup Play Off, but Scally insisted he would never play for Gillingham again.
There was a subsequent five-match stretch when Sancho returned to Gillingham's starting line-up after Scally claimed to receive an apology from the player behind closed doors. But the truce lasted only as long as it took for first choice central defenders Chris Hope and national teammate Ian Cox to recover from injury.
Sancho said he was adjudged Man of the Match in his last outing on January 10-a 2-1 defeat at Barnsley-before being cut from the squad again with the return of Cox. He spent the last two months travelling to matches and looking on from the stands.
Yesterday, it got worse when Sancho was told to train with the youth team. He admitted his last two months at the club were mentally taxing.
"I was starting to loss my vibes for the game," said the former Dundee player, "because I am at a club where, no matter how hard I train, I will never play.
"The funny thing is that, in terms of supporters and accommodation, Gillingham is one of my best clubs ever. It is not a case where I was happy to sit down and take the money."
Sancho is excited at the chance to restart his career at Swansea, particularly as the club is on the verge of promotion. The Trinidad and Tobago player was summoned after the club lost their two regular central defenders to injury and hopes to make the most of the opportunity.
He could go straight into the Swansea line-up tonight for their LDV Vans Cup Semi-Final against Colchester.
"My ultimate goal is to make the starting team at Swansea," said Sancho, "and help them make automatic promotion. I also want to make and start for Trinidad and Tobago at the World Cup."