Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA recorded its first win of the season on Friday night as the “Eastern Stallions” eased past a dim T&TEC outfit 2-0 in a First Citizens Cup quarterfinal fixture at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
As a further indicator of T&TEC’s eye-watering slide since its Pro League debut in 2011, Caledonia opted to make seven changes to its line-up so as to keep players fresh for a CONCACAF Champions League outing away to Honduran team, CD Marathón, on Wednesday although the local team has no chance of advancing from the group.
“I never thought T&TEC was up to the task with all due respect,” Caledonia AIA coach Jamaal Shabazz told Wired868.com. “Hence the reason we tried to rest some players and give credibility to our training sessions by giving others a chance to play.”
Within ten minutes of Friday’s kick off, Caledonia was already two goals clear and, although T&TEC improved, the result never seemed in doubt.
New T&TEC head coach Jefferson George has to accept such indignities on the chin this season. For the south-based club, every game in the top flight is a small victory in itself as last term’s surprise package was just days away from bowing out of the Pro League.
The 33-year-old George, who was T&TEC’s goalkeeping coach last season, revealed that, two weeks before the Pro League opening, he approached manager Peter Mohan and begged to save the team for the sake of players like Sylvester Teesdale, Bevon Bass, Kevon Neaves and Akini Adams who he felt were on the verge of national selection.
“I said that, based on the players we already had in the (T&TEC) workplace, we didn’t need a substantial budget,” said George. “He asked me for a program and I drafted one and he said I would have to head the program. I said no problem.”
The T&TEC players and staff, who are all employed at the company, meet five times per week outside of their normal working hours to train and play with no financial compensation whatsoever.
“It can be very challenging to get the players together to train and prepare,” said George, “because it is not just office workers but field workers as well. But we still do have some good players.
“Once we can motivate these guys and get them into decent condition, I still feel we can do ourselves justice this season.”
Caribbean champions Caledonia AIA, even with a weakened squad, was clearly several steps too high for a T&TEC team that lost its opener 2-0 to Police on September 15.
T&TEC played a 4-5-1 system against Police and George explained that his team will try to defend en masse for the early part of this season while it works belatedly on lifting fitness levels. But the temptation of a big knock-out scalp bewitched the young coach who opted for two strikers against Caledonia.
He regretted it almost immediately.