Sat, Nov

Fixing our football almanac.

Little changes could bring big improvements

Now that there is an influx of T&T players based in North and Central America not only the proposition of having a so called B-team becomes a good idea, but it's a proposal that we can actually build on and it could play a pivotal role in the development of T&T football at both club and international levels.

In my last article, “Building a local team could be a step in the right direction” I mentioned that having a local B-team train and play games consistently could be the answer to some of the problems we've had to face in the past. The feedback I received was mostly positive, however some readers pointed out that the good players will inevitably leave our shores and then we are back to square one, which I concur with, but to an extent.

In any case, it's still a win-win situation. Not only would our local clubs benefit from the sale of players, but our national team would as well. Firstly, we would have a more competitive group of players and added depth, which would subsequently encourage and force locally based players to improve. The Association (TTFA) in turn, could establish a system whereby it would receive a percentage from players sales, thus injecting funds back into the national programme.

In other words, the national B-team will basically function as an academy that would benefit everyone involved.

With the impact of falling oil prices already hitting the shores of Trinidad and Tobago and could possibly plummet the oil-rich country into a deep recession, football needs to be run like a business to survive; especially in a society where fans have lost interest in the sport and it’s league is in extremis.

We need a development scheme in T&T to fuel successful youth national teams and test young players in international competitions from an early age. The production line raises the base level of the squad (even for clubs with relatively inefficient or ineffective systems) and promotes competition within the ranks.

To take it a bit further, Trinidad and Tobago currently has over 30 professional players scattered across North and Central America. Some are seasoned professionals, whereas, others are youths and potential T&T prospects that qualify through T&T parentage and are connected to foreign clubs academies. If we delve even further and count College and University players, we have well over 70. That's a combined total of over 100 players. In my opinion finding a mere 4 gems from this pool would be deem a success.

We are now left with a local based team with the option to beef up the squad with a few from the leagues mentioned above which could help propel the national programme to a higher level. For starters, it would be economical and worthwhile to run the national set-up with players that are based right here in CONCACAF, especially if the foreign-based players are not available.

We have to think about what lies ahead for T&T. It’s possible that in a couple of years T&T will no longer have players based in England, unless something magical happens. Apart from Gavin Hoyte, the few others are already over 30 and time is not on their side. If T&T fails to get to Russia in 2018 we could very well see the last of a few England based players we currently have.

Restructuring the League

In 2011, the Trinidad and Tobago's Professional League season was aligned with the major leagues in Europe. Consequently, the League's CEO Dexter Skeene added that aligning the season calendar with that of Europe has afforded the T&T Pro League the opportunity to further link culture with sport to harness and develop the talent of people in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mind you, the idea of having the mixture of sport and culture was done and dusted before one can say Jack Robinson. It became a thing of the past as Pro League teams are normally kicked out of stadiums to host Carnival fetes. The idea had serious ramifications as no one was interested in going to games especially, around Carnival time. Imagine, the top 2 teams in the League draws a meager crowd of about 20 spectators per-match unless, games are played in community fields which only two teams have to their advantage, Point Fortin Civic and San Juan Jabloteh.

The format did however benefit our national team players who ply their trade in Europe, more-so England. But now that the scale has tipped in the direction of CONCACAF and we have more players based on this side of the pond, I believe that we should revert to the original fixture format to accommodate our national programme and to a degree, our clubs.

This will no doubt benefit the national team, as well as the local clubs competing in the CONCACAF club tournaments.

At the CONCACAF level, we have seen T&T clubs under perform and part of this has to do with teams being forced to use the tournament as an early preseason while the Mexican, NSL and MLS leagues are already into half of their season. These issues are clearly exacerbated by the placement of the tournament on the calendar.

Having the Pro League fixtures amended would mean that our so called B-team would become an even stronger unit, because it would give our national coaches easier access to players based in the CONCACAF region.  

As it stands, the Caribbean Cup starts around the same time the leagues in Europe begin and our players based there are coming off a 2 months vacation or are in preseason.

The Caribbean Cup, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers are held on official FIFA dates and usually start in the summer; and with the rearrangement of the T&T league our players would be primed and ready for action.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. The following is head coach Stephen Hart’s take on the matter. Hart said, “Many approaches are possible, all with potential setbacks by those whose interest are self serving.”

“One has a group of about 26-30 paid players in constant training as a National Unit. You will also need to play International games on a regular basis.”

“Utilize the Pro League where the players are in national team training for three days and the players released to their clubs two days before league games.”

“The simple approach is to have the squad in camp seven days a month with one or two international games.”

“Now the problem with this is that I do not think we have the quality in all positions to compete with the top teams in CONCACAF should we use this approach. Jamaica tried it and got very poor results.”

“Secondly, once we begin to showcase players, they will get offers abroad and now we lose yet more players and have to fill the gaps. If we do not have money at present to do the minimum, how are going to achieve the above? Who pays the bill? Travel for foreign international games will remain approximately the same amount.”

“We could invite foreign teams to come here, but there is a cost to this and with a 25,000 seating stadium, we will not make much revenue from these games after all expenses.”

“Nonetheless it is worth exploring and should be continued as a discussion, ended Hart.”

“Everald Cummings told SWO: You are on the right track and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand what you are saying.”

“Not only that I had a local team, but I never got the million dollar camps for team preparations and the big salaries.”

“I coached from my experience as a patriot, national player and coach who have been there done that. 
I tried to take the strike squad to my level because you must have a level and If I was left alone, we would not have had these problems.”

“Country always came first to me. Flex , you are right on target. I have said that for over thirty years and also proved it, ended the former Strike Squad coach.”

Below are some of T&T's Under 21 team prospects.

Jerren Nixon Jr. (Striker) - Philadelphia Union Academy.
Noah Powder (Midfielder) - New York Red Bulls Academy.
Samory Powder (Midfielder) - New York Red Bulls Academy.
Joshua Virgil (Striker) - New York Red Bulls Academy.
Anthony Herbert (Striker) - New York Red Bulls Academy.
Tyler David (Defender) - Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS).
Christopher Regis (Striker) - Colchester United FC (UK).
Jonathan Godette (Striker) - DC United Academy.
Andrew Mohammed (Defender/Midfielder) - Sport União Sintrense (Portugal)
Desevio Payne (Defender) - FC Groningen (Holland).
Lakyle Samuel (CB) - Manchester City Academy.
Shaquell Moore (Defender) - Huracán (Spain).
Christian Koat (Striker) - PDA (US).
Levi Garcia (Winger) - AZ Alkmaar (Holland).
Ryan Inniss (Defender) - Port Vale (UK).
Morgan Bruce (Midfiedler) - Stevenage FC (UK)
Daniel Carr (Striker) - Cambridge United (UK).
Panos Nakhid (Midfielder) - American University.
Dayne St Clair (Goalkeeper), Pickering, Ontario, U-19.
Terrell Moore (Holding Midfield) BW Gottschee, U-16.
Ian Blugh (Left Full Back) BW Gottschee, U-16.
Cameron McGregor, Albertson SC, U-16.
Coby McGregor, Albertson SC, U-16.
Chaz Burnett (Midfielder), PDA, NJ.
Josh Burnett (Defender), PDA, NJ.
* Skylar Thomas (Defender) - Toronto FC 2 - (22).
* Nathan Regis (Striker) - Pfeiffer University - (23).

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