Technical Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation Mr. Lincoln Phillips joins the Soca Warriors Online in an exclusive interview. Out-lining the future of T&T football and touching on the just concluded Project 2014 training camp.
SWO: Judging from reports. I read that the just concluded Youth Training Camp (YTC) was very successful. Are you going to have any more camps coming up ? and if yes, when, how often and where.
Also, from what I understand, these players called were mainly to identification, evaluation, and tracking of players for the purpose of supplementing and preparing under 23 National team for the 2006 CAC games, 2007 Pan American Games, and 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Knowing that T&T is always or most of the times under prepared for tournments. What is your next step in preparing the said teams.
LP: Yes, the camp was a resounding success and an excellent kickoff event for GOAL 2014, which is my vision to have every national team from T&T qualify for every FIFA tournament by 2014. In the past, we have had all of these talented players go off to college and then we lose track of them even though they frequently come back for holidays. I felt we needed to have a camp over the Christmas break in order to take a look at the overseas based and local-based U21 players becuase these young men will form the nucleus of our 2010 team.. Because of the size of our country, we need to cast a wider net when we identify and track players. There are a number of excellent players from Trinidad and Tobago who reside in the US, Canada, and UK. This camp will now be an annual event and marks another first in a number of initiatives I have implemented since coming on board.
I also want to thank you Flex and the members of the site for providing us an excellent list identifying the US-based college players. socawarriors.net played a large part in the success of the U21 camp. I am also in the process of accumulating a list of overseas-based U12-U19 players so hopefully we can get an even more comprehensive list of players from those age levels. As for addional camps, there are a number in planning. Jabloteh has been gracoius enough to accept our invitation for a practice match and we will play on Saturday Jan. 21 at the Larry Gomes Stadium at 9am. I am very encouraged at this collaboration becuase the professional clubs are a key partner in the development of all our players and any opportunity for the clubs and federation to work together must be embraced because everyone benefits.
We are also preparing a mid-February U21 camp and looking at the possbility of conducting this camp in Florida. I have already spoken with the Kansas City Wizards of MLS to play a practice match in Tampa and hope we get three additional games during what could be a 10-day camp. There will be a number of MLS teams training in Florida around the same time. The upcoming CAC qualifiers in March and finals this summer require this level of preparation. In the past, we have lost games because of the lack of preparation. This will not happen under my watch.
As Leo Beenhakker mentioned in December when he asked where are the youths, we must prioritze our youth teams and ensure they are adequately prepared. This, of course, requires money and the initial funding from the SPORT Company as well as the increased visability Trinidad and Tobago earned with our world cup qualification should enable our national teams to make a good run at achieving the mission set forth in GOAL 2014. Of course the women's program is enjoying a good run. They performed well in the CFU qualifiers and the increased resources and opportunities I have been able to acquire will hopefully bring continued positive results from our womens teams.
SWO: You and your associates saw some 75 plus players during the YTC. Do you think you identified any players that possess the caliber of players such as Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Shaka Hislop.
LP: We actually saw 112 players. There were a number of promising players on display. Kevon Neaves made an impression from beginning to end and in my opinion he was the best player.
I've suggested to Leo that he should take a look at Kevon. Judah Hernandez looked very good. Makan Hislop was very strong and commanded the back very well. Yohance Marshall and Kareem Smith also looked good in the defense. Hayden Tinto came on towards the end of the camp and Shane Calderon was very sharp in his finishing. Kendall Jadeosingh and Abiola Sandy were promising at midfield. Ironically, we have some work in the goalkeeping department. As a goalkeeper, this will be addressed with a series of goalkeeping training camps. I will develop a goalkeeping staff and we will conduct a series of clinics throughout the country.
SWO: Can you tell us who you think were the top 6 players on the YTC under 21 team and, and give us a breakdown on each individual player you choose, in other words, why did you pick these certain players.
LP: I wouldn't rank the players. We are still early in the screening and there are at least 10 players who weren't able to attend the camp that we will like to see in our next camp.
SWO: Can you tell us who you think were the top 6 players on the YTC under 23 team and, and give us a breakdown on each individual player you choose, in other words, why did you pick these certain players.
LP: Same as the U21 team, it is difficult to rank so early in the screening process. The player selections were actually the job of the coaches and evaluators. I provided some input. However, it was interesting that when the selected player list from the coaches, evaluators, and myself was compared there was only 4 discrepencies. That is how we selected 34 players instead of 28 so it was satisfying that everyone was in accordance with what to look for in players who will don our national shirt.
SWO: Were their any foreign born players in the YTC and, who were they.
LP: Threre were two players from Canada: Kyle Hall and Justin Hay. Both looked good especially considering they were among the younger players. Stephen De Las, who is now based in the UK, didn't get selected for the final list but he is very young and we will continue to keep our eye on him.
SWO: Did the local players called the same level as the US/Canadian based.
LP: Of the final 34 players selected, 18 players were local-based so yes the local players held their own. We have a nice mix of overseas based and local based players.
SWO: Do you think the Secondary School Football League should be longer in order to help keep our future youth players fit and more interested in the game.
LP: No. In fact I think the players are engaged in too many games. You have to remember that these are children we are talking about yet they are expected to sometimes play 3-4 a games a week during the SSFL season and some coaches require the players to attend practices in the off-season. The mission of the schools is to educate our young people and we cannot forget that the young men and women who play for their schools are called student-athletes.
I would like to coordinate a development program with the SSFL and the local clubs. In most countries, player development is the domain of the clubs. In smaller countries, the federations play a larger role in player development but the clubs and secondary schools must work together with our federation in order to properly serve our young players.
SWO: The Tobago School League is not that competitive. The league where you have 2 teams dominating year in year out. Do you have any plans to help improve the school league in Tobago.
LP: The situation in Tobago will be always challenging because of the limited player pool. There are larger countries whose professional leagues have been traditionally dominated by two teams; River Plate and Boca, Barcelona and Real Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus etc. If more players from Tobago are exposed to player development programs from early on, the player pool will naturally expand. What we have to do is continue to take steps within our national programs to provide the necessary financial assistance to ensure the best players from Tobago are exposed and able to attend training camps in Trinidad.
SWO: I think at the end of the SSFL season we should pick an All-Star 20 man team and try to play, not, just the Jamaican teams, but other concacaf teams as well. A youth tournament that is hosted in one country every year which runs for maybe one week or so. We can find out the schedule of other interested schools in concacaf at the beginning of the year and try to run each school league on the same time frame every year. This will insure that the interested schools in concacaf finish their season at the same time making this tournament very possible. Can you touch on this.
LP: What you're describing is a national team tournament. Yes, we should take more tours and it is imperative that our players are provided international exposure as early as possible, especially South and Central America. We should also invite teams to come here. We have wonderful stadiums and an excellent athletic infrastructure. But Flex, I'll do you one better; one of my proposals for my 2006 initiatives is to bring back the North -South Classic.
SWO: Did the under 23 & under 21 players/teams during the YTC played any games, if so, against whom, what was the final scores and who scored for both teams.
LP: Yes, the U21s played against a selection of U23s on the final day of the camp. The games consisted of three 45 minute periods. In fact we did not really keep score as the focal point was not competition but rather the identification of talent but the U21s were just as competitive as the U23s. There were some U23s that showed well. Stephen Cruikshank was very effective on the flank and Darryl Roberts and Osei Telesford dominated the midfield. We felt the U21 camp was a good first step in identifying the best U21 talent that will position Trinidad and Tobago to qualify in March and win in the CAC finals, Pan-American Games in 2007 and Olympics in 2008. Once we do this, the team will be poised to make a run to qualify through the front door for 2010.
We must embrace a new attitude that includes an expectation to win competitions and must no longer be satisfied with moral victories. That is what GOAL 2014 is about and the only way we can achieve its mission is to have our teams step on the field with the expectation of winning the match.
Note: On behalf of the Soca Warriors Online I just what to say Thank You to Mr. Lincoln Phillips for taking the time to do this interview for us. Please keep up the great work you are doing and we all wish you all the best in the future of T&T football..