Thu, Oct

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop will return to competitive international duty this weekend in a key World Cup qualifier at home to St Kitts/Nevis after a break of almost three years.

However, the 35-year-old Portsmouth player explained that he has no intention of blocking the progress of the country's talented younger custodians like Crewe Alexandra's Clayton Ince and Dundee's Kelvin Jack.

Hislop, who is in his ninth season as an English Premier League goalie, explained that he decided to step back following the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament where he wore the captain's armband.

Ince, who is three years his junior, was Hislop's deputy at the Gold Cup while Jack (28) was a standby.

"I felt that Ince was already a solid and established goalkeeper," said Hislop, "while it was just a matter of time before Jack started giving a serious challenge to Ince. I think that the future of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeping is very bright.

"Four years ago, I committed myself to the 2002 qualifiers and I did the best I could but I did not want to remain and block the path of talented upcoming goalkeepers."

When his former mentor, Bertille St Clair, returned to the helm of the national senior team last year, Hislop offered to assist the squad's preparations in anyway necessary.

And a niggling injury to Jack and the unavailability of Ince has called for more direct influence from the lanky custodian.

A win over St Kitts on Sunday will virtually confirm Trinidad and Tobago's place in the final Concacaf qualifying round while a tough trip to Mexico also looms next week.

Hislop accepted the challenge of guiding the "Soca Warriors" through while the youthful CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh goalkeeper Daurance Williams will presumably serve as his understudy.

"Daurance also has a bright future," said Hislop. "But he is young and developing and perhaps a disappointing result can damage his confidence and set him back.

Mexico are a very good team as they showed in Trinidad last month and playing in Mexico at altitude is always very difficult. Everyone has to play at his best otherwise we will be beaten very badly.

"But I have never been afraid to meet a challenge whether it is for the national team or for my club and I am looking forward to it."

Hislop admitted disappointment at his tally of just 14 national caps since making his debut at the mature age of 30 in 1999.

A row with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) threatened to abort his career before it had begun although they eventually patched up their differences during St Clair's first spell at the helm.

Although St Clair was controversially sacked, a year later, Hislop continued his national service under Ian Porterfield and Rene Simoes before stepping out of the limelight.

Nine of his 14 caps came in competitive outings where he conceded 11 goals-six of them in two away matches to Costa Rica and Mexico-and kept clean sheets against Panama, Honduras and the United States.

In the 2002 Gold Cup, Hislop became only the third Trinidad and Tobago player to win selection on the tournament All Star team-Russell Latapy and Arnold Dwarika earned that distinction in the 2000 competition-although the Warriors crashed out in the first round.

St Clair would be happy to have such talent in reserve.