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Photo: Morvant Caledonia United midfielder Densill Theobald (right) controls the ball while Central FC defender Marcelle Francois looks on during 2015 Toyota Classic quarterfinal action. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
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Derek King won his first Pro League title as head coach at just 29 years of age, which made him the youngest success story in Trinidad and Tobago’s domestic football history.

King is one of only two coaches to win the Pro League title for two different clubs (Joe Public and North East Stars)—along with Terry Fenwick (San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC)—and the only one to scoop up a Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) crown for good measure too at FC Santa Rosa.

So King, who is also the last coach to win an international trophy for the Soca Warriors which he did at the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup, follows Angus Eve, Terry Fenwick and Ross Russell in Wired868’s Pro League All-Star series.

Wired868: Tell us about your favourite season as a club coach?

King: I think that would be the 2009 season with Joe Public [when I won my first title in my first full season as head coach]. I started my job close to the end of the previous season when they let go coach [Keith] Griffith and fired several players—so it really wasn’t a good ending to the season.

I don’t think our management team believed that we would do so well because I was an inexperienced coach and the youngest to coach in the Pro League. That year, our first final was against Defence Force and we lost in the last minute to an easy goal. It was heartbreaking and that was the turning point. The guys realised that we could do it.

We had a really young squad with some players who hadn’t even played at Pro League level before like Micah Lewis, Kareem Young and Keion Goodridge. We brought in Gorean Highley, who everyone thought wouldn’t last the whole season because of disciplinary problems.

That same year the [Pro League] banned eight of our players for five games after [a brawl] at the Petrotrin ground in Palo Seco—but everything just brought our guys closer together.

I remember we would go to the beach and play cricket or have a day when the boys would cook for everyone. Those are things I brought in to the club and there was a real togetherness.

I think Kerry [Baptiste] scored about 50 goals for us that season (with 35 goals in the league). When Kerry came [to Public], we had him as a winger but I remember we played a few games in pre-season and we weren’t getting any goals. So I spoke to him and said we are missing a goal scorer and he said: “Coach man, no problem. Anywhere the team wants me to play, I will play.”

Okay, so between Public and Stars, which were your best XI players?

Goalkeeper: Alejandro Figueroa (Joe Public)

He was a Colombian and had already been in the league for a while at W Connection. He brought leadership and he was outstanding with his feet. We had a bonus for shut-outs and that motivated him too. He worked hard and always wanted to be number one and his communication with his backline was outstanding.

I also worked with Marvin [Phillip] who was really good but I would go with Figueroa.

Right back: Seon Power (Joe Public)

Seon was a workhorse. He was great with his head and he could read the game. He played right back but I’d use him at centre back or left back too. He was very athletic and I used to say he was our Cafu going forward as he was a good passer of the ball. We were sure on set pieces that we would get goals with him.

Central defender: Yohance Marshall (North East Stars)

He wasn’t the fastest but then he wasn’t the youngest when I worked with him. He brought good leadership qualities. He was very professional when it came to training. He never missed a day and would always stay back for extra work.

He was good at reading the game, very good in the air and very good from set pieces. I think he will go on to be a good coach.

Central defender: Carlyle Mitchell (Joe Public)

He was a striker at Caledonia and when he came [and saw] the players we had on top, he offered to play centre back and he did well in a practice game. So I played him at centre back with the professional team and as a striker with the reserve team, since he was young enough to play both.

He is an all-round footballer and very good with his head. He and Seon scored a lot from set plays.

Left back: Jameel Neptune (North East Stars)

It was a close fight between Jameel and Keion Goodridge for this spot. But I’d pick Jameel because of what he would bring to the team going forward.

He was not one of the best technically but he was a fighter. You were sure to get 100 from him every game. He wasn’t the best defensively because he preferred to go forward but he always contributed and he would play anywhere for the team.

Holding midfielder: Densill Theobald (North East Stars)

Densill was part of my old brigade at Stars. I played with him and we already had a good relationship. He was smooth, brought excellent experience and had a good vision of the game. He wasn’t the fastest but he always knew when and how to show for the ball and never, ever got caught in possession.

He would keep it simple, work hard and would be the last to leave after training. It was a close call for that spot with Kevon Goddard who is also a player I admire a lot. I call Goddard my ‘pitbull’. He would also get the job done. But I would go with Densill.

Midfielder: Trent Noel (Joe Public)

Trent brought calmness on the park. He could pass the ball and read the game. Again not the quickest but his tactical awareness and first touch were awesome—he always knew what his next play was and would never get caught on the ball.

And on dead ball situations, the keeper would have to make a brilliant save or he would score. He was our ‘Rolls Royce’ in midfield. Smooth, calm and collective.

Midfielder: Yu Hoshide (Joe Public)

He was the unknown. (Laughs). He was really professional, his movement off the ball was outstanding and he was tactically sound. He was one of the best passers on the team and also a free kick specialist. Teams feared us on set pieces because we had Kerry [Baptiste], Trent and him who could all kick them.

He was the first Japanese to play in the Pro League. He was playing in the US lower divisions and saw info about the club on the internet and got on to us and said he was willing to pay his own way to come for a trial. The rest was history.

Right wing: Akeem ‘Froggy’ Garcia (North East Stars)

I’d worked with him before at the National Under-20 level and brought him to North East. Technically, he is not one of the best but he is excellent down either flank. He knows when to go, when to stay, when to combine with midfield and he can get goals.

He works very hard and is always a threat. He could also play on either flank or as a 10 or 9—these are guys you always want in your squad. He was very direct.

Left wing: Hayden Tinto (Joe Public)

That 2009 season was Tinto’s breakaway year—he was outstanding! He brought a certain flair with his step-overs and his first touch was outstanding. You could hit that ball into him at any speed and be sure he could take it.

He was never a player to score many goals but that season he was on a high and he got a few. People would come just to see him play football and with the players he had around him, it got the most out of him that season. He was outstanding.

Forward: Kerry Baptiste (Joe Public)

Kerry was just a natural goal scorer. He was similar to Ian Rush in that he was always there where he would have to be. Nothing flashy; he was a sensible player and he would trick defenders to get into the right space before they did.

He always played within his strengths and would be just alert for his chance. He was an outstanding finisher and he was the captain of my team.

Wired868: And who were the three most dangerous players you faced as a Pro League coach?

King: First, let me just say the other players who came close to my XI. We had: Elton John, Andre Toussaint, Kishun Seecharan, Julius James, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Keston George…

Wired868: That’s cheating! But okay, tell us about the players who gave you nightmares now…

Strike partnership: Devorn Jorsling and Richard Roy (Defence Force)

In the 2009 season, Jorsling would hold the ball up well while Roy, who was faster and more direct, would compliment him and was like lightening down the channels. They were like Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke—when you tried to watch one, the other would hurt you!

They gave the whole league trouble that year and Jorsling scored in practically every game. And if he didn’t score, then Roy scored two!

Forward: Marcus Joseph (W Connection)

I think he is one of the top local goal scorers. I coached him and he is a guy who doesn’t really play to instructions. I think W left him to play as the out and out striker and allowed him to just let him do what he wanted.

It is hard to plan for him. He would pop up in midfield or just about anywhere on the field; and if you give him any space he would hurt you!

He could shoot from any distance. I think we would all love to see him do that for the National Senior Team and only time will tell. He still has maybe a few years left.

Midfielder: Joevin Jones (W Connection)

We always had a fight with him. He was young in those days but you could tell he would go on to great things.

He was always capable of doing something special and he has a good footballing brain. He was quality from day one.

And the most memorable performance from one of your players?

King: This is a tough one. But I would go with Yuh Hoshide’s debut at the Marvin Lee Stadium—I think it was against Caledonia. He had been training with us for about two weeks and had done an interview in the local media.

That day the Marvin Lee [Stadium] was full with people who wanted to see him. Those were the days when crowds would come out to watch football. If you reached late, you had to park past the bus route or in Macoya because all the streets around the ground would be full!

The fans were singing: bring on the Japanese! And they were clapping for him every time he got up to warm up. (Laughs). We brought him for about 15 minutes and with his first touch, he received the ball and made a through ball forward for Tinto and we almost got a goal. The crowd went crazy!

RELATED NEWS

Pro League All-Stars: Shabazz picks Densill, ‘Tiny’, Conrad, Radanfah and that combative ‘Wretch’
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).


Hyron Best, a former St Augustine Secondary goalkeeper, was still an active player when he attended his first coaching course in Brazil in 1986, after his hometown club, then named Caledonia AIA, helped raise funds for the trip.

More than three decades later, he has since taken on the name, Jamaal Shabazz, the team is now called Morvant Caledonia United and he is not only a household name within local football circles but is also on his third national senior team coaching job in St Lucia—following reasonably successful stints in charge of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Shabazz never lead Caledonia to the Pro League title but he helped the ‘Eastern Stallions’ win everything else, including the 2012 Caribbean Club Championship.

Today, he becomes the fifth coach invited by Wired868 to select his Pro League All-Star selection, after Angus Eve, Terry Fenwick, Ross Russell and Derek King. Shabazz, who now operates as Morvant Caledonia technical director, made his picks in tandem with head coach Jerry Moe.

Wired868: First, tell us about your favourite season as a club coach?

Shabazz: That would be the 2011/12 season when we won the Caribbean Club Championship and finished just two points behind [winners] W Connection in the Pro League. We also won all three knock out competitions: the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, the First Citizens Cup and the TTFF FA Trophy.

In that same season, Guyana eliminated Trinidad and Tobago [in the 2014 World Cup qualifying series]; and I was Guyana coach and had a whole heap of Guyanese players [in the Caledonia team], so it was a real bumper year for me and the club.

That was the first time that Caledonia were able to attract real quality players. We took [World Youth Cup players] Jean-Luc Rochford, Aubrey David and Daneil Cyrus on loan from FC Santa Rosa. (That time the relationship with Keith Look Loy was very good.)

And we had players like Charles Pollard, Walter Moore, Radanfah Abu Bakr, the late Nuru Muhammad and Devorn Jorsling and upcoming talent like Ataulla Guerra. And of course our normal stalwarts like Densill Theobald, Akim Armstrong and Abdallah Phillips. [Former World Youth Cup forward] Jamal Gay was with us too.

We had good talent and a big squad and I think the key to that was we had sponsorship at the time from NLCB, so the wage bill was being met. Normally as coach I had to go hunt for [funds] on a monthly basis; but we had a solid arrangement with Massy Motors and NLCB as well as government funding—and that ensured we were able to meet our bills.

We never had sponsorship to that magnitude again. In that period, we were able to buy a bus, which was one of our proudest achievements! We didn’t just let that money pass through our hands and have nothing to show for it.

Right now, the bus is under repair after an accident last year and we are about TT$35,000 away from getting it back on the road. But I remember the joy we had when we bought the bus from Massy. We went to Morvant Junction and for the whole evening we were picking up people and dropping them home for free, until the taxi drivers started to complain! (Laughs)

Louis Lee Sing, the NLCB chairman, was instrumental in giving us guidance to make that purchase and we worked out a unique deduction arrangement with Massy [from our sponsorship with them] to get it. And even then, we had to ask our senior players and coaches to give up between TT$500 to $700 a month from their salaries so we could afford it.

I remember we would let Solo Harmonites, Carib Tokyo and any community group use the bus for free—all they had to do was agree to put in the diesel!

But back to the football. We had several players who stood out that season like Cyrus and Abdallah and Akim. But I think Conrad Smith was our standout player that year.

Okay then, which XI players did you and Moe come up with…

Goalkeeper: Glenroy Samuel

Glenroy was very competitive and very ambitious and wanted to be the next top keeper in the country, even though his attitude needed a lot of management over the three years he was with us. He didn’t get along with other players. He was younger than they were and he would come off as an upstart…

But he pulled off so many saves for us that looked sure goals—it felt like I was watching Earl Carter, Michael Maurice or John Granville! He was agile and a great shot stopper.

Right back: Kareem ‘Tiny’ Joseph

‘Tiny’ is one of the success stories for Caledonia on a community level. He came to us at 15 or 16 as a forward but we had so many forwards at the time already and my philosophy—which I learned at courses in Brazil in 1986 and 1989—was to have wing backs overlapping all the time.

We did a lot of work with him so he knew the timing to overlap and his positioning; and he bought in to it. In the 2011/12 season, he and [left back] Walter Moore had about 13 goals between them.

Apart from his athleticism, he was a penalty specialist and would practice his penalties religiously after every training. And what I admired with him is he would take only one penalty, just like in the game.

One time, [then Clico San Juan Jabloteh coach] Terry Fenwick who had an unlimited budget tried to steal him from us for his qualities as a wingback, which we took as such a compliment for the work we put in. But of course we fought to keep him; and we did. We ent going to willingly lose players like that!

Defender: Charles Pollard

Pollard was one of my Guyanese internationals and he offered strong leadership. He was similar to Densill in being that person who would ensure on the field that the team tried to play in the way that they prepared and practiced.

We liked to build up from the back and he had the character and personality to put the ball down and play. He was not the quickest but he was solid because of his positional sense and one on one defending.

Defender: Radanfah Abu Bakr

He was a natural leader and very composed. During the time he played with us, he showed good maturity, good passing range and wonderful understanding of how to manage the line, as in when to push up and when to drop off. He has a goal in his free kicks and he could go up in the last minute and get you a goal from set plays.

When the chips are down, he was never one to put his head down, even when he wasn’t doing well—that is a quality that made him stand out, along with his ability as a player.

He had a good attitude towards training. He would train in Ramadan twice a day, even when he was fasting. He would just suck it up.

Left back: Walter Moore

His dribbling, crossing ability and work rate made him stand out as a wingback. When we had Sheldon Emmanuel, we would have them both on the left flank with one playing midfield and the other as wingback and they would alternate during the game.

Walter went to Finland in 2012 and had a distinguished career. He now works as a youth coach at his last club there. He is definitely one of our success stories.

Holding midfielder: Stephan ‘Wretch’ David

He was not a vociferous captain but he led by example. In a season, he would miss just two sessions and one would be so that he could renew his passport and two would be to register his daughter at school or something. When you compare that to the things these younger players miss training for!

On the field, he offered stability. He was always backward of square to Densill, ready to relieve pressure and switch the angle of attack. Everyone wants to get forward quickly but he understand how to stay behind the ball a few seconds longer, to be a free option. He had strong tackling ability and was very, very combative for a quiet guy and very, very dependable.

As part of a project with Massy, we had him split time between work there and training with the club and today he works in their admin department.

Right side midfielder: Abdallah Phillips

Like ‘Tiny’, Abdallah was a very dazzling dribbler, quick and he had the ability to always get in the cross… They used to call him ‘kut kut’, which was really ‘cut cut’. (Laughs). That is because of the way he would [dribble with] the ball by chopping inside of his right foot and left foot.

When we found him, he was playing with TSTT in the [North] Zone. But being a muslim and from the hood, we felt a certain rights to him and were able to convince him to try this thing with us instead of an 8 to 4 job.

He has been instrumental to the club over the years and his understanding with Tiny as far as when to come in [off the flank] and leave the space for him to overlap was: wow!

Central midfielder: Densill Theobald

Densill provided stability on and off the pitch, more-so after he went to the [2006] World Cup. He hated to make a bad pass! He had a good eye for the simple ball and his work rate and fitness were always tremendous.

He didn’t score a tonne of goals but he provided tremendous stability and leadership. He was always a player we could count on to go the distance in every game; and for the whole season he would play 30 games out of the 35.

He was like a captain in the team although he wasn’t the captain.

Left side midfielder: Sheldon Emmanuel

Don’t hold me to his position. This is a curry favour pick! (Laughs) I had to find a place for him somewhere!

He was very aggressive and indomitable. I remember after three years, Terry Fenwick wanted him for Jabloteh and I sent a message to Jabloteh: ‘it will have problems with this one’! (Laughs) I remember [W Connection coach] Stuart Charles telling us that ‘Shellie’ really matured under you guys and it is time for you to let him go to a club in a different environment. And I said, ‘yes, in a different country’! (Laughs).

He was a St Lucia international and was very disciplined and committed and had a great work rate… He would give his life for you on the pitch!

Playmaker: Conrad Smith

Conrad is the ultimate child of Caledonia. We found him roaming the St George’s ground in Barataria and noticed that we would see him there in the morning and then come back in the evening and he was still there. I said ‘youth, you don’t go to school?’ And he said ‘not really’. He was about 13 at the time.

Club official Humphrey Brann and myself went to see his mother there and then and we virtually adopted him! I still consider him as my son.

He was not a quick player but he was very technical. He had the ability to play with his back to the defence but he was also dangerous coming at you. He had a ‘spanner’ with his left foot or right foot, he could score goals and he was very, very confident on the ball.

As a homegrown talent, he gave confidence to the team in the big matches. He would be the one player who, when we were under pressure, could do something fancy on the ball to neutralise the crowd and give his teammates a lift.

Unlike Densill, he didn’t deal too well with disappointment. Maybe because of his background, we overdid it and sheltered him too much. He always needed that shoulder; and at times when he didn’t make the national team he was devastated and it took a lot to get him motivated again.

He played for [Brazilian] Rene Simoes’ National Under-23 Team and he played on the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team for Stuart [Charles-Fevrier] and [Dutchman] Wim Rijsbergen but didn’t go on to do as well for his country as he should have.

Still he was a symbol of Caledonia, just like the late Shahdon Winchester was for W Connection. He was a helluva player for us!

Forward: Sheldon Holder

Sheldon was one of the first players that I brought straight from Guyana to play for us. Most of the others like Pollard and Walter were already here with other clubs. I think he came in 2012 and scored in each of his first three games! We never had to help him with his confidence just because he’s come to the ‘New York of the Caribbean’. (Laughs).

He is not the strongest of players but very dangerous with the ball at his feet and running into spaces. Once he is fit, he can be downright disrespectful to defenders!

We have never really focused our game around a centre forward at Caledonia, as we usually attack down the flanks and don’t focus on one outlet for goals. But Sheldon has been a force for us. He scored some really important goals for us.

Wired868: Okay, tell us about the three most dangerous players you two faced in the Pro League?

Midfielder: Aurtis Whitley (San Juan Jabloteh)

He scored important goals for Jabloteh and was one of the players who was incessant against us offensively.

Remember he is one of us. He played youth football for ‘Cale’ for about two seasons and he lived right in Malick. The ‘dons’ in the area would always say to me: ‘go and get Aurtis we would pay him’. But for me the money from the dons wasn’t stable and the fact that none of them are alive today speaks to that. (Laughs).

Aurtis was a thorn in our side. As a youth player for Maple, I remember I would have sleepless nights when I knew I had to face players like Bert Neptune, Nevick Denoon and Brian John. Aurtis instilled that same kind of terror in us because, just like them, he always found a way to be effective.

Midfielder: Marvin Oliver (San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC)

He played one season with us and was the Pro League MVP but we couldn’t keep him from joining Fenwick at Jabloteh. His ability to play with his back to the defence and from dead ball situations and with the ball on his feet was so impressive; but mostly he stood out for his general spirit of combativeness.

He came from where we came from and he had just that little extra aggression. When it was 0-0 and in the 80th minute, you know Oliver was going to find a way to hurt you!

He reminded me of that Bob Marley song: you will tired to see his face/but you can’t get him out of the race!

I think the clubs he went to didn’t fight enough to get him on the national team. Okay, he was deported; but he was not a terrorist or a threat—he just overstayed his time. Sometimes the status quo in the football are so stuck up that they don’t understand you have to do extra for a player.

Marvin was an annoyance as an opponent. He understood how to compete.

Forward: Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force)

Jorsling also played for Caledonia and after a stint in the United States when he came back to us, the Defence Force said it was now or never in terms of him returning to the army—and he didn’t want to go. I had to tell him that if he didn’t go, he couldn’t play with us!

As an opponent, his close control, ability to finish and his free kicks were a constant threat. The fact that he was left footed was awkward for defenders. Defenders are accustomed to meeting right footed forwards and he had this trick where he would post up with his right foot and then switch to his left at the last minute to score.

When we played Defence Force, we would let our keeper know he had to cheat a little bit for free kicks, we would ask ‘Wretch’ to drop back a little deeper so they couldn’t play the ball into Jorsling, and we would ask our players to press ‘Army’ high up the pitch so they would have to kick the ball long and Jorsling couldn’t get it. We would have to change our entire plan just for him!

We didn’t want him to get the ball in the build up phase and we certainly didn’t want him to get the ball in and around the box!