If there are any virtues that San Juan Jabloteh technical director Keith Jeffrey lacks, let it not be said that confidence is one of them.
When Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy came calling, over the Christmas period, with the offer of Boys’ National Under-15 Team assistant coach—in what would have been Jeffrey’s first national appointment—the answer from the Jabloteh coach was immediate and firm.
“The reason for turning down the job is I believe in terms of success—whether it is at Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, Youth Pro League, CFU or Concacaf level—I feel I am more qualified than everyone else involved at youth level,” Jeffrey told Wired868. “I have coached at all those levels and won a trophy or two at almost all of them.”
Jeffrey’s portfolio stretches from Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) national titles with San Juan North Secondary in 2006 to the East Zone Primary School crown with La Pastora Government in 2019 as well as an armful of Youth Pro League titles and senior Pro League and Caribbean Club Championship runner-up finishes with Jabloteh.
Jeffrey insisted that, despite his title as technical director, he coaches all of the Jabloteh teams—youth and senior.
It is now a matter of record that Look Loy recommended Presentation College (San Fernando) and QPCC head coach Shawn Cooper to lead the Boys’ National Under-15 Team. Cooper led the National Under-17 Team to successive Concacaf quarterfinal finishes and also steered the Women’s National Senior Team into Concacaf battle last year.
The TTFA Board, however, disagreed with its technical committee. And Jeffrey became the only coaching appointment under the current administration that was made directly by the board.
“I was happy that it came out in the public domain that this is how I got the job,” said Jeffrey. “I would like to tell the TTFA board members thanks for believing in me. It is a job I will try my best at to make them proud.
“For the board to overrule the technical committee and give me the opportunity to serve, I am thankful and hope I can repay them in the future for the decision made.”
Last night, Jeffrey’s players made a statement to match in the adult Pro League as they whipped AC Port of Spain 5-2 in the opening game of a Hasely Crawford Stadium double header.
The result saw Jabloteh climb two places to eighth in the 11-team standings. If the league table does not look particularly impressive for the ‘San Juan Kings’, it is worth noting that Jabloteh started with five teenagers last night and used 15-year-old Jaheim Faustin off the bench.
Jeffrey admitted that there were pragmatic reasons for their youthful approach.
“Looking at the financial position of the club, as the technical director I made the decision to go with a younger team, who would cost the club less,” he said. “The idea is to let them gain some experience so they can be the real product down the road.”
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers have not been constrained by finances—at least not in the same way as their Pro League rivals. But yesterday marked another setback for the star-studded team, as they lost 2-0 to Morvant Caledonia United.
For the second straight week, Rangers spent much of the game with a numerical disadvantage, though.
Last week, defender Caleb Sturge was ejected for a rash tackle against Police FC, although Rangers went on to win 3-2. Yesterday, it was forward Isaiah Lee’s turn to see red, as he instinctively flung out an elbow during an entanglement with Caledonia captain Melvin Doxilly, just 35 minutes into the game.
It was a double blow for coach Dave Quamina, as Lee looks to be in his best form since joining the club late last year; and because Rangers, bizarrely, don’t seem to have another guy they trust at centre forward, despite the abundance of talent within their squad.
Venezuelan Johnny Noriega-Brito, a recent acquisition from Morvant Caledonia, played upfront for the first 45 minutes before being replaced by Keron ‘Ball Pest’ Cummings. At best, Cummings spent 10 minutes upfront while, for the other 35 minutes, he was all over the field and sometimes so deep that he was in line with his own back four.
Meanwhile, Tyrone Charles, who played upfront for Rangers during last year’s Ascension Invitational Tournament, seems permanently marooned on the flanks, where the sum of his contributions is a few dashes down the touchline and the odd teasing but indecisive set piece.
Even with a player short and some stellar names not pulling their weight, Rangers might have sewn up the match but for some fine goalkeeping by Caledonia’s Nigerian custodian Katibi Kolapo, who kept out goal-bound blasts by Cummings and the impressive Aikim Andrews.
Kolapo, incidentally, is in Trinidad as an agricultural sciences student at UWI. Rangers owner Richard Ferguson must have wished he found him first as his own goalkeeper, Jabarry St Hillaire, was at fault for the game’s opening item.
Caledonia flanker Joshua Alexander, almost certainly misused at right wing instead of his customary right back role, beat St Hilliare with a low, speculative attempt at his near post after the ‘Eastern Stallions’ won possession in opposition territory.
Rangers had just nine active players at the time, as Andrews was down for treatment.
And Caledonia substitute Jevick McFarlane added gloss to the score summary with a stoppage time item on the break, which ensured that stand-in coach Densill Theobald said ‘goodbye’ to a four game win-less streak.
The triumph took Morvant Caledonia to second place with 13 points, four points shy of Defence Force although the latter team have a game in hand. The Army/Coast Guard combination edged lowly Tiger Tanks Club Sando 3-2 in Couva today.
Rangers slipped from third to fifth place behind W Connection, who defeated table proppers Cunupia FC 2-0 yesterday to move from sixth to third.
Point Fortin Civic also made progress up the standings yesterday as their 2-1 win over Central FC saw them motor to sixth place with the ‘Couva Sharks’ dropping to seventh. Once more, Kerville Jeremiah led from upfront for Civic as his first half item meant he has scored in four successive matches for coach Dexter Cyrus.
Civic have scored eight times in their six outings so far this season. Jeremiah contributed five of those goals himself.
The goals were flowing in Port of Spain too and, for once, Jabloteh were on the right end of them. In the opening six matches, they scored just twice—the lowest offensive return of any team in the 2019/20 season. Yesterday, they blew a flat AC Port of Spain team away.
AC, steered by former Joe Public coach Walt Noriega, even had the benefit of a head start as midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford curled home an excellent free kick after just four minutes.
Jabloteh drew level in the 14th minute with a close ranged finish by flanker Tyrese ‘Boy Boy’ Bailey, off an assist by forward Justin Araujo-Wilson.
Bailey is 18 years old; Araujo-Wilson is 17.
“Tyrese [Bailey], Justin [Araujo-Wilson] and Nickell [Orr] are some of the younger players who we want to send on trial in Europe in May or June, so we are giving them the chance to get some experience now,” said Jeffrey. “Jabloteh would benefit as long as they are successful… In the modern day, this is the age that European clubs prefer to get players.”
Versatile midfielder Micah Lansiquot, one of the squad’s more senior players at just 22, put Jabloteh ahead one minute later with a strike from just inside the opposing box. And the third goal came in the 35th minute as AC defender La Shawn Roberts inadvertently turned in a cross by promising 19-year-old Jabloteh left back Brandon ‘Sprite’ Semper.
Rochford’s precise free kicks apart, the biggest issue for Jabloteh was one of their own making as Lansiquot had a mini-meltdown and initially refused to be placated by Jeffrey.
“Because Micah has a lot of energy, the skipper (Nical Stephens) is always calling on him to do what he has to do,” said Jeffrey. “It is a big man’s game and a game of passion and adrenaline, so some people communicate in different ways. Last night, it went a little overboard and it was my job to reel it in.
“[…] I called [Lansiquot] to the side to calm him down and remind him that the captain is only carrying out orders.”
There was a more positive display of passion from central defender Shakiyl ‘Pampers’ Phillip, who looked to be close to tears as he broke away to create Jabloteh’s fourth item in the 53rd minute, which was expertly finished by front man Renaldo Francois, and then scored the fifth himself from the penalty spot.
AC did get a lifeline through a fine finish by Sedale McLean in the 71st minute. And they might have had another goal in the 86th minute but for a penalty block by Jabloteh goalkeeper Christopher Bigette, off opposing forward Rashad Hyacenth.
Jeffrey chose to see the glass as half-full, as he toasted their most comprehensive win of the season. It is a work in progress though and he gave an example in his guidance of Araujo-Wilson, a former National Under-17 forward and Fatima College student.
“After every game, I have to remind him of what a forward needs to do to make it in Europe,” said Jeffrey. “For example, you can never allow the [opposing] two defenders to be comfortable when they have the ball. What [Araujo-Wilson] does a lot is ball watch and his agents asked me to add [defensive awareness] to his game.”
Poor concentration, the Jabloteh coach explained, is a common trait with players on the twin island republic.
“I remember talking to an international coach who said Trinidad football has talent in abundance but talent does not win competitions,” said Jeffrey. “Trinidad’s biggest problem is they concentrate between 15 to 20 minutes. So what happen to the next 65 minutes? That is where the problem lies.”
Although Jeffrey is better known on the local front as a senior coach, he says he prefers to work with the younger age groups.
“I think coaching the youths has made me a better coach at the higher level,” said Jeffrey, who has a TTFA C-License and certificates in Psychology in Sport and Physical Educations. “Coaches like [Pep] Guardiola talk about the benefit of coaching at the younger level before they step up. At the younger level, the children absorb and retain information; whereas at the senior level, the players are so set in their ways of playing that it becomes harder.
“The young male athletes are not students of the game while I have made myself a student of the game by learning and teaching the different styles of the game. The modern day player is only interested in social media and they only study the game while they are training. Once they jump in their vehicle, everything jumps out the window.
“It is very difficult as a coach to bring professionalism to the modern player. For that reason, I prefer to work with the youths with the hope that they buy in to what they need to advance their game and go forward.”
Jeffrey thinks the best way to keep the players engaged is camps and high-level practice games and he hopes the TTFA can afford him both as National Under-15 coach. Although he turned down the chance to be Cooper’s assistant, he said he is enthusiastic about assisting Angus Eve on the National Under-17 Team, which plays competitively in August.
As National Under-15 Team head coach, he hopes to create a team that presses high up the field and utilises a mobile front four. He is clear on what he hopes to pass on to his players—on and off the field.
“We will do a lot of lectures and personal enhancement and I will encourage them to do self-analysis and things to help them be better persons and better players,” he said. “When you are a better person, you will be a better player… I am the kind of coach who doesn’t only talk the talk. I still play a lot of football and keep myself fit, so I am able to demonstrate to players by not only talking it but by action—whether it is in showing them the proper technique to hit the ball over 25 metres with your right or left foot. I coach by being the example.
“I am happy to be afforded the opportunity to be in the national set up and I will put my best foot forward.”
San Juan Jabloteh (4-2-3-1): 30.Christopher Bigette (GK); 13.Keshawn Hutchinson, 20.Shakiyl Phillip, 12.Sévère Verilus, 16.Brandon Semper; 4.Nical Stephens (captain), 11.Micah Lansiquot; 23.Tyrese Bailey, 10.Renaldo Francois, 17.Nickell Orr (18.Jair Edwards 50); 25.Justin Araujo-Wilson (27.Jaheim Faustin 68).
Unused substitutes: 35.Jesse Peters (GK), 2.Kerdell Sween, 8.Dellon Jaggasar, 15.Kadeem Hutchinson, 22.Jercole Pierre.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
AC Port of Spain (4-4-2): 26.Javon Sample (GK); 2.La Shawn Roberts, 4.Brendon Creed, 17.Kyle Sylvester, 24.Rakim Cabie; 13.Shem Clauzel (27.Dominic Douglas 46), 12.Jean-Luc Rochford, 28.Sowande Prieto (19.Rivaldo Coryat 46), 7.Sedale McLean; 9.Rashad Hyacenth, 18.Kordell Samuel.
Unused substitutes: 31.Kwame Farrell (GK), 3.Osei Charles, 11.Kyle Bartholomew, 14.Andel Noray, 22.Darian Parks.
Coach: Walt Noriega
Referee: Nikolai Nyron
Wired868 Man of the Match: Shakiyl Phillip (San Juan Jabloteh)
(Tuesday 21 January)
San Juan Jabloteh 5 (Justin Araujo-Wilson 14, Micah Lansiquot 15, Renaldo Francois 53, Shakiyl Phillip 85-Pen, La Shawn Roberts 39 Own-Goal) v AC Port of Spain 2 (Jean Luc-Rochford 4, Sedale McLean 71), 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia United 2 (Joshua Alexander 84, Jevick McFarlane 90+2) v La Horquetta Rangers 0, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Cunupia FC 0 v W Connection 2 (Kurt Fredrick 18, Isaiah Hudson 61), 7pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic 2 (Kerville Jeremiah 22, Shakuile Williams 35) v Central FC 1 (Ché Benny 17), 7pm, Mahaica Oval;