CLICO San Juan Jabloteh's 49-year-old English football coach Terry Fenwick was raised in the tiny north England mining town of Seaham-whose population is less than half that of San Juan's-and went on to captain one of London's biggest clubs, Tottenham Hotspur.
The former Portsmouth and Crystal Palace manager has secured three Pro League titles, two Courts Pro Bowl and Lucozade Big Six crowns and lifted the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation FA Trophy and Toyota Classic crown once each since his arrival at the Piarco International Airport in 2001.
Fenwick might become the first to manage a three-peat in the Pro League if Jabloteh recover from the considerable woes of their title sponsor, CLICO, and shake off challenges from the likes of W Connection, Caledonia AIA, United Petrotrin and Joe Public. He has a lot on his plate but still took time off to appear in our Q & A.
What is your knowledge of the Trinidad and Tobago financial sector, like now since CLICO's problems?
Like so many people, I have been riveted to the TV and press releases referring to the CLICO bailout. [Shakes his head] I am saddened by the whole affair. I would rather reflect on the positive things CLICO and Mr (Lawrence) Duprey have done for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Yes, they have been very aggressive in business, but CLICO/CL Financial have consistently supported sport, culture and entertainment, more than any other local company on these islands.
How does CLICO's collapse affect Jabloteh in the short and/ or long term?
The short term has and will be tough. The things that we used to take for granted are beyond our means today, and securing players' salaries has been a big issue for the board.
The players and staff have shown real character to overcome a difficult couple of months since the announcement back in January. I have to applaud my staff, Angus Eve, Wesley Webb, Earl Jean, Brian James and Ronald Primus. They have been magnificent; always upbeat, always with a smile and there to give support.
How long have you been in Trinidad and Tobago, and how you have settled in?
I left home at 15 and moved to London, which was tough. Since then, I've never stopped travelling. Trinidad was a shock at first [smiles] but I've been in T&T for eight years now; I'm addicted to pepper sauce, love the Trini humour and steupsing at my (Trinidadian) girlfriend, so I'm probably more Trini than you! [Laughs heartily] It has taken a little while and I've had to wear some people down, but I really feel at home now and I've settled down, under the management of my lovely girlfriend. God bless her!
What is the most enjoyable and most worrying part of your life in Trinbago?
I wake up every morning and thank God that I can enjoy the sun on my face in this beautiful country.... I love what I do, and I do it in breath-taking scenery. As often as possible, I go down the islands or drive to Maracas. That's living!
A disturbing fact here is that the people in places that can make a difference have taken their eye off the ball. So many intelligent people, engrossed in power and politics, who have become blind to the real issues.... Such a small country and we can't address the crime situation? Do me a favour. Give the youths a chance, and improve salaries in the police force to attract sensible people and provide much needed support.
How do you feel you have contributed to local football?
I feel I have raised the bar . I was instrumental in raising players' salaries (at Jabloteh) and rewarding loyalty, professionalism and commitment, and I professionalised our working environment wherever possible. I've had my moments with the establishment, but when I see them these days, we generally share a laugh or two.
I believe my biggest contribution has been my coaching ability. Keep it quiet, but I am a very good coach and I know I've helped many players develop their skills, ability and appreciation of what is required to be better than the rest. I may be abrasive; I may demand a lot from others, but the fundamental thing is I want better, whether it be from referees, administrators, players, coaches, directors [he stresses that word] or fans.
Speak about your fall-out with W Connection's Brazilian star Gefferson Goulart. (He floored the Brazilian after he ran into the Jabloteh technical area to celebrate a goal in 2005. Both men received suspensions). Have you tamed since?
[Wry smile] My staff will tell you my sideline remonstrations are always directed at my players.... I am an emotional man and am serious about my profession. I still have the burning passion to win inside, but I have disciplined myself not to react in recent years.
(Goulart and I) talk and get on now. He's a good player, and we know we were both wrong in what was an ugly incident. We both come from very expressive football nations where emotion and passion runs wild.
You have been sent off more than a few times as a player and coach. What is it about you and referees?
[Smiles] I always think of referees as men with domineering wives, and the only time they can be the boss is on the football field.... And, if they've had a bad week, who better to take it out on than "FENWICK!". The world over, I've never met a good referee. Poor fellows-I am only joking!
How did the movie Billie Elliot (which was based on Fenwick's hometown) mirror your childhood?
I went to see that movie years ago, and didn't have a clue what it was about. Well, halfway through the movie, I was crying my eyes out because if you replaced the ballet dancer with a footballer, it was me!
I was born in the small mining village of Seaham, just south of Sunderland, and unless you had a talent or an exceptional skill, you worked down the coal-mine. It was a hard, unforgiving life, and I thank God I was given the ability to play football.
Was your England career haunted by Diego Maradona's wonder goal? How do you view that contest in retrospect?
Diego Maradona? [Smiles] Before the game in 1986, England manager Sir Bobby Robson said to me, "Don't worry, Terry, he's little, fat and he's only got one foot." [Laughs] Bobby failed to mention how good that left foot was, and that I was playing against an absolute genius. Haunted by that goal? It ended my international career. I should have hit him in the tunnel before the game had started!
I always felt we had a better team than Argentina, but I didn't realise how good this Maradona was. What a player! Interesting, back in 1986, it was definitely my fault Maradona scored that great goal. Nowadays, all my ex-teammates are trying to take responsibility. Bless them.
Why did you choose football management, and what have you learned since your first coaching job?
I had a long and successful playing career, and the natural progression was to move into football management. My first job was at Portsmouth FC (and) in the three years there, I raised 38.5 million pounds by developing top, young players and kept the club afloat.
What I forgot was the fans. They weren't bothered about the good business, they wanted a top-winning team. Although my directors were pleased at the job I'd done, they couldn't ignore the fans when they turned on me. That was my lesson. Look after number one, and number one will look after you.
My old boss, Terry Venables, was a great coach and a great man. I learnt a lot from him. As a player, you recognise good players and also find out all the tricks of the trade. I don't suffer excuses and probably invented most excuses I hear today. In four and a half years in T&T, I've not been late or missed a session. I'm committed and I expect the same in return from my players. As a coach, you earn respect by being a good example and being competent at your job.
How does the Pro League compare to professional football abroad?
Our league is very young and some way behind leagues elsewhere in the world, but we will get there in the end. We must learn from other leagues and strive for better levels of competence. The T&T Pro League is progressing every year, and the teams are becoming more competitive and the players are improving although it seems that administration and refereeing is treading water.
Who is the most memorable player you ever coached?
Aurtis Whitley. If Aurtis had been Brazilian, he would have been another Ronaldino. Sublime skills, wonderful array of passing, dribbling skills to die for and built like a race horse. Aurtis had it all, but he never really believed he would play anywhere other than Trinidad, and you couldn't drag him out of Morvant. (He is) a nice guy that should have done so much more.
I often wonder if the Government made a big mistake giving those (World Cup) players so much money. I don't begrudge their reward, but most of the guys had no real knowledge of banking or running an account. The Government should have managed their rewards much better.
What is the oddest/ funniest experience you have had in football?
It was a Jabloteh training camp in Tobago, and the players were given a night out with an 11 p.m. curfew. But Cyd Gray, Ronald Primus and Lester Peltier were missing at 11 p.m. They told my staff that Cyd had a flat tyre. The next morning, Angus Eve, Wesley Webb and myself separated the three players so they couldn't see each other and then asked,"Which tyre was flat?"
Primus said front left, Cyd said the back right and Peltier said he couldn't see because it was dark! We all fell about laughing. The players involved were fined accordingly.
How do you view the national set-up and what, if anything, would you change?
It all has to start with structured development. We have none, and the people responsible for our national youth team are not competent enough. Their only experience is with the US college leagues, which is not good enough. Walking around with a clipboard and telling children to tuck your shirt in and roll up your socks is not coaching.
I have seen, too often, coaches fail at one level, only to be recycled into another level. Elsewhere in the world, if you don't deliver, you're out. Ask Sven Goran Eriksson. The appointment of Russell Latapy is a step in the right direction. "Latas" will see the talent we have and has the knowledge and experience to help these kids improve and develop....
There are many very competent coaches here in T&T (he later mentioned Angus Eve, Reynold Carrington, Clayton Morris, Clint Marcelle and Anthony Streete) that don't get a chance.
How would you describe our 2010 World Cup chances?
I wish I could be more optimistic. Keep your fingers crossed.
Your impressions on the campaign thus far?
Well, it started so well, two up and a penalty to take in El Salvador, and then, it just all went horribly wrong. One point, instead of three, was a blow and then, against Honduras, we sat off and allowed them to dictate the pace of the game. I never really thought we looked like breaking them down, until their goalkeeper made that blunder. I thought it was a good point in the end. The USA game was a complete mess from start to finish. I think we need 12 points plus to stand a chance of qualification. What do you think?
Would you ever accept the national coaching job if it was offered?
Good try, next question!