Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart says he already has a fair idea of what his final squad will look like for the two upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25th (away) and March 29th at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Hart also gave his impressions on the St Vincent team, describing them as potentially dangerous opponents.
TTFA Media: As we enter another month of World Cup qualifying matches with the two games against St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25th and 29th, What is in your head at this moment?
SH: For me it’s simple. We have two games to play. You can only play the first game before you play the second game. And the first game is an away game so we have to be very calculating because most of my players finish play (with their clubs) on the 19th or the 20th but the bottom line is we want to get maximum points out of the two games and then we will see how the other games go in the group.
TTFA Media: A couple players are now back playing after lengthy injury layoffs, Kevin Molino and Hughtun Hector. Are you in a position to say whether will be considered for selection for these two qualifying games?
SH: Well Hector hasn’t played in a while. He’s just started back playing so I will keep an eye on him. He’s back here with W Connection. Molino has been spot playing. I am not sure if medically he will be released by the club to come and play an international… how many games he will have under his belt. But I will keep monitoring that situation.
TTFA Media: What do you make of the St Vincent/Grenadines team? We saw them in two previous qualifying games.
SH: I was quite impressed actually. They have some adventure going forward. They are organized and if you are not concentrating fully they can surprise you. They did the US. They started the game brightly, they opened the scoring and when a team scores on you particularly if they are at home you sort of create doubt in your mind. I think they are a very good team and we have to be at our best.
TTFA Media: With the game being played on a cricket outfield at Arnos Vale, are you considering sending an advance party to view the surface before the team arrives there for the match?
SH: They have already moved the game to 3:30pm in the afternoon. And I expect because the dry season the pitch to be extremely hard with a cricket pitch in the middle of it. Yes I will attempt to send someone just to give us an idea of it, I know for a fact St Vincent is just going to go with the mandatory 45 minutes the day before so it could be a difficult surface to play of course unless it rains.
It’s not really that much different from our ground conditions with our weather at the moment. We just have to be more clinical with the ball and more tidy because the ball will bounce a lot and we have to be aware of hat.
TTFA Media: What do you have in mind for the team’s preparations before the encounter on March 25th?
SH: Traditionally this is one of the most complicated times. This date, March right through to May mainly because you have a number of leagues trying to get the league over with, players are playing either to be promoted or to avoid being relegated. And to get players is going to be very difficult. Already most of our players play either on the 19th or the 20th so they wouldn’t be arriving here before the 21st, 22nd and that only gives us three or four days to prepare but it is the nature of the make up of the squad. It’s the nature of the Trinidad and Tobago team at the moment with so many players spread all over the world.
TTFA Media: Will you try to get your full team assembled in Trinidad before going off to St Vincent or will some players fly directly there?
SH: No !I think we will try to get everybody here. In that way we are in control of the training pitch and the entire environment. We can get some training sessions in in private.
TTFA Media: When do you expect to name the final squad?
SH:There is a number of games to be played between now and then. There may be changes to the squad. I have an idea of the squad in mind. It’s just a matter of narrowing it down to the final 23. I’ll possibly announce it the Thursday or so before we go into camp.
TTFA Media: We’ve had a few players such as Nick De Leon, Ryan Inniss and John Bostock who are eligible to play for Trinidad and Tobago. What’s the latest on that?
SH: I have spoken to all of them. Some are in the process of finalizing their passports. That is something we cannot control especially with the foreign embassies. But we will keep an eye on that and see on how it goes,
I don’t expect any of them to be ready for the March date. One of them, I don’t want to call names, is still very uncertain as to what he would like to do because he has other options outside of Trinidad and Tobago and of course they are pressuring him to make a decision but I have told him that we need him, we want him, we would like him to be part of the Trinidad and Tobago setup so the decision rests with him.
TTFA Media: Outside of the current player pool, are there any other players you are monitoring? And we’ve seen Levi Garcia making his debut in the Dutch top tier. What is your take?
SH: I’ve seen all Levi’s games, It’s good that he’s playing. He is in a good environment. There are four or five local players that have looked on top of their game both physically and mentally so I‘m keeping an eye on them because I think they can push for selection. It should be interesting. Obviously I didn’t have this sort of option in January when we played Haiti because the League was on a long break and it was very similar with the foreign base players.
TTFA Media: Any other players who we have not heard about that could have the possibility of breaking into the squad?
SH: I’m not sure. I got a couple names for which I sent out some info to get some scouting information but it’s a little obscure at the moment. And very difficult too at the moment. On the flipside we have some players still looking for clubs and not been playing so that is a little bit worrisome for me.
It’s a difficult situation. I keep in contact with Kevan (George) and emotionally it’s a rollercoaster for him. He knows the situation. It will have an impact on selection.
TTFA Media: What is your take on Kenwyne Jones as he seems to be enjoying his football at the moment?
SH: He’s playing and the good thing is his game ends earlier than the others so he will have some time not only to fly but also to recover and he is accustomed flying so he knows what has to be done.
TTFA Media: And now you have other players playing regularly for their clubs, how much of a positive situation is this?
SH: I think playing is the most important thing. You have to be playing regularly because yes you can be fit but if you’re not match-fit you are not match-sharp and then mentally as the game goes on especially at an international level mistakes crop up and that can cost you.
TTFA Media: We know it’s gone and over with but what were your thoughts when the Copa America draw came out and seeing where Haiti ended up?
SH: I didn’t really pay much attention to that, It’s over. We had a number of opportunities to qualify for that tournament . It was not to be. My focus is on getting into the next round of World Cup qualification and quite frankly that is more important than anything else.
TTFA Media: Do you think that the disappointment of not making it to the Copa America has had the kind of impact on the players which will make them want to really come back with a bang and make up for it?
SH: Well I think it just sort of shows that we are a young squad and we lack that mentality that something like that has to happen before you sit down with yourself and say we let a big opportunity slip but that’s experience . The thing is with experience, you usually get it after you actually need it. So yes the players are more aware of the importance of it because when the coach tries to bring down the importance and tell them, they can be like Yeh yeh yeh, it’s the coach talking but until they actually feel it emotionally it’s very difficult to convince them.
TTFA Media: What do you hope to have happening in the May to August period ahead of the September World Cup qualifiers?
SH: I will sit down with the President and the General Secretary, hopefully we can get two big games in the May window. If we get that, that would be fantastic for us experience wise and on the backend we will have to be prepared to go into the next set of games in September because I am still thinking we are going to need points.
Video - Hart looks ahead to another World Cup Qualifying Month