Trinidad and Tobago Under 17 Men’s Team head coach Stern John has started trimming his squad as he enters the final month of preparations for the upcoming CONCACAF Under 17 Men’s Championship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Florida.
John has just twenty-four players in training at the moment and is expected to have a few of the North American-based players from the recent combine joining the training this week. Joining the the local bunch a day ago was Atlanta-based forward Jerrel Nixon, son of ex-Senior Team and FC Zurich striker Jerren Nixon. Sessions are being conducted daily five days per week at the Mannie Ramjohn and Ato Boldon Stadiums.
“So far we’ve seen over forty players and a few have been cut from the squad. We’ve begun the process of narrowing the numbers down towards the final selection,” John told TTFA Media. “We’ve had a fairly good period to work with the players at home and assess their capabilities. And from this week we’ll have some of the guys joining us from North America to fit them into the mix with the intention of putting together the best possible squad for the competition in May,” John said.
Among those in the local squad include Fatima College duo Zachary Welsh and forward Jean-Heim McFee. Both players spoke about the current preparations, saying they were focused on getting out of the group stage and improving on their performances at the Under 15 championship a couple years ago.
“It’s been good in camp so far. We are working hard to ensure we do better than the last tournament. We are trying to go out and compete this time.,” McFee told TTFA Media. “The loss against Jamaica was an embarrassing one. We weren’t playing as a team. We were playing as individuals and it was embarrassing to the coach and the country.
“We must use our individual skills at time but we have to work as a team to get the results to go forward. The team is progressing and the aim is to qualify for the World Cup. My personal view is that our chances are high. The group is set out in a way which I think gives us a fair chance. We can beat every team in the group but we have to want it,” McFee said.
“International football and school football in Trinidad and Tobago is totally different. The level is way higher on the international stage at our age group than it is at the school level so we have to lift our game to match up with the other teams,” he continued.
Welsh spoke about the influence of John and Kenwyne Jones as the coaches along with assistant Caleb Wales and the rest of the staff.
“Coach Stern and coach Kenwyne both have a lot of experience in the game which is a plus for us and the have been working on getting us to master the ball and get us ready and fit for the tournament. I think my game has grown over the past two years because I think coach Russell (Latapy, previous Under 15/Under 17 coach), coach Stern and coach Kenwyne are all ex-national players and best to ever play for the country and they have used their experience to guide and help us. This has been helping the team to grow. The coaches are very interactive with the players. They give pointers to us throughout the sessions and the relationship between them and the players is very good as they are giving it their best to help us improve for the tournament.
“The last tournament didn’t give us the best of results. We played Jamaica last time and the result wasn’t the best but I think we can use the lessons and experience to come better this time around and really compete and challenge for a qualifying spot,” Welsh added.
T&T’s opening game at the Concacaf Championship is against Bermuda on May 1st preceding the two other group games against Mexico and Jamaica on May 3rd and 5th.