Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Under 17 head coach Stern John returned home on Monday night after overseeing a TTFA Combine for U-17 Men’s players at Campbell High School in Atlanta on the weekend.
The purpose of the exercise was to scout for players born or based in North America who are eligible to represent this country in international football, specifically in the Under 17 category. John is currently preparing a National team to participate at the CONCACAF Under 17 Men’s championship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida from May 1st.
Twenty-five players from various states attended the two-day combine with some coming from Toronto, Florida, North Carolina, Atlanta, New York among other states.
Also present to take a look at proceedings was John’s former teammate, ex-national team striker Jerren Nixon who currently resides in Atlanta and former T&T-based players who later played in the United States, Sheldon and Brent Bennett.
John said the exercise proved to be worthy one as he managed to discover some talent that could boost the current pool of players. Goalkeeper Coach Ross Russell assisted John in Atlanta as both men flew from Manchester following the T&T versus Wales friendly last Wednesday.
“I think it was a great response. It took us about a week or two to get this together and we had a really good turn out. The parents came out in their numbers with the kids with two days to see the foreign players,” John told TTFA Media after completing his second session in Atlanta.
“I was really impressed with some of the kids we saw here, to add to the kids we already have in Trinidad. They came out and showcased themselves in a very organised manner, respectable as well and they competed. That’s what this is really about so that we can get talent in North America and incorporate them with the ones back home as well,” he added.
The former Birmingham City and Sunderland striker who is T&T’s all-time leading goalscorer, said there was available talent in North America and he believes these exercises would benefit the T&T programme.
“I think these combines can definitely bring some benefits to our programme. We got a good response in the short time so you can imagine what would happen if we give players a couple more months or even a year notice. We have a lot of talent outside of Trinidad and Tobago and a lot of kids want to play for the country and they want to represent the country their parents were born in or where they were born before moving abroad.
T&T faces Bermuda on May 1st to be followed by clashes with Jamaica and Mexico on May 3rd and 5th with top three teams advancing to the knockout stage.
“Now is a very key time for us. We have to cut the team back at home because we have thirty players in training and of course we saw a few players in Atlanta that we will have joined the training squad. We have less than a month to prepare and it’s therefore crunch time. It’s a tall order but I think we can show that we can compete. One of my main things is being able to go and compete at the tournament . I told the kids here that once you are representing Trinidad and Tobago, it’s a pride so they understand that. And once we get that right then they can compete at any level,” John concluded.
Video - Stern John assesses U-17 Players at Combine in Atlanta