Wed, Aug


Dis­ap­point­ed and hurt sum up the way na­tion­al foot­ball coach Den­nis Lawrence feels fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup cam­paign in the Unit­ed States re­cent­ly, but he in­sist­ed Wednes­day that the re­sults are a con­se­quence of the non-func­tion­al T&T Pro League.

At a press con­fer­ence at the Na­tion­al Cy­cling Cen­tre (NCC) in Bal­main, Cou­va, Lawrence said the team faced nu­mer­ous chal­lenges go­ing in­to the tour­na­ment, rang­ing from visa is­sues, a mix-up in the Cana­da friend­ly match which re­sult­ed in in­juries for some of the play­ers be­fore the start of the Gold Cup, poor at­ti­tude by play­ers and a goal-scor­ing prob­lem.

And with the CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League set to kick off in Sep­tem­ber, the T&T coach ad­mit­ted he will be mak­ing a num­ber of changes to his squad, which will in­clude call-ups to new lo­cal and in­ter­na­tion­al play­ers, while at­tempts will al­so be made to se­cure in­ter­na­tion­al friend­ly match­es against our re­gion­al neigh­bours.

At this year's Gold Cup, the T&T team was beat­en 0-2 in its open­ing match to Pana­ma be­fore a 0-6 rout by the Unit­ed States, which sparked calls for Lawrence to step down as coach. The So­ca War­riors then fin­ished Group D with an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ing 1-1 tie with Guyana.

Lawrence, a for­mer na­tion­al de­fend­er, said he called the press con­fer­ence be­cause he want­ed to give the me­dia the op­por­tu­ni­ty to ad­dress its con­cerns to him and not any­one else.

"Foot­ball is a very un­pre­dictable game. If we had man­aged to put in the per­for­mances we did against Thai­land, Iran, Japan, Wales, then prob­a­bly we would have gone fur­ther, but foot­ball is not like that when you go in­to a tour­na­ment. When you go in­to a tour­na­ment, you have to look at it in two ways, do you want to go and sur­vive, or do you want to com­pete and win the tour­na­ment."

He added, "When we went in­to the tour­na­ment, we un­der­stood that one of the biggest chal­lenges we had was that we were not scor­ing goals and we weren't cre­at­ing enough chances. So by hav­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty to in­tro­duce play­ers like Kevin Moli­no back in­to the fold, it gave us a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion. It al­lowed us more to be on the cre­ative side."

Lawrence said ide­al­ly he would have liked to have a core group of lo­cal play­ers to make up his team, but that broke down with the is­sue of fi­nance which the Pro League has been suf­fer­ing with for the longest while.

In draw­ing ref­er­ence to this, he said: "I was still in Trinidad in the year of 1999 when the Pro League came in­to ex­is­tence. Our core base for the na­tion­al team was a lot of lo­cal play­ers like An­gus Eve, Lyn­don An­drews, Stoke­ly Ma­son, Shur­land David and my­self. And dur­ing that pe­ri­od, we man­aged to do some good things. At one point we were ranked 25th on the FI­FA rank­ings and we won Caribbean Cups at that time, so we saw the ben­e­fits of the Pro League."

He added, "We go to 2016 when the gov­ern­ment's sub­ven­tion was pulled and we saw the league start­ing to strug­gle, the league be­came short­er and I as­sessed it and looked at all our re­sults from 2016 to now. So 2016, no sub­ven­tion, clubs in prob­lems, salary is­sues, all these things. Re­sults start­ed to go in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. In 2017, no sub­ven­tion, short­er leagues, then we go to 2018, the same sit­u­a­tion. In my opin­ion, your na­tion­al pro­grammes are as strong as your league. We are the on­ly coun­try to take part in the Gold Cup that did not have a league."

Due to this, Lawrence said he be­lieves the coun­try's lo­cal foot­ballers are not re­ceiv­ing the amount of foot­ball they need, which is a sad re­al­i­ty of part-time foot­ballers go­ing up against pro­fes­sion­als when they play.

He, how­ev­er, dis­missed con­cerns that T&T did not have the qual­i­ty of play­ers to com­pete with their in­ter­na­tion­al coun­ter­parts, say­ing what our play­ers need is to play more foot­ball.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian


T&T coach concerned over lack of local football.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).

DENNIS Lawrence, coach of the T&T men’s football team, is concerned over the lack of an active league for the local-based players.

The Pro League ended in November and the Super League concluded a month later. However, a proposed T-League (merger of Pro League and Super League) is expected to begin in late August or early September.

At the moment, the local-based players will have to rely mostly on their physical fitness when it comes to competing at the international level.

At a media conference on Wednesday, at the Media Room, National Cricket Centre, Couva, Lawrence reflected on his time with Defence Force, during the infancy of the Pro League (1999-2000) before he embarked on a club career in Britain with Wrexham, Swansea and Crewe Alexandra.

“I’ve been trying to assess T&T football,” Lawrence said. “We go to 2016 and I think that’s when the (government) subvention was pulled.

“The clubs started to struggle, the League period became shorter and then I assessed it and looked at all our results to now.”

He continued, “It’s 2019 and there is not even a league at the moment. The last I’ve heard it’s going to start in August or early September.

My question then remains is it coincidence that the moment that the Pro League is suffering that our national teams, and senior team by extension, the results have started to suffer. My honest opinion is 100 per cent.

Lawrence said, “Your national programmes are as strong as your leagues.

We were the only country to take part in the Gold Cup that did not have a league.

“I feel sorry for the local (based) players because, eventually, you start looking at foreign (based players who are) given an opportunity because (they’re) playing in an active league compared to the local players,” added the TT coach. “What we find ourselves doing is selecting a player based on potentially what he can do and not what he’s actively doing.”

Lawrence revealed that the quartet of Shahdon Winchester (striker), Jomal Williams and Akeem Humphrey (both midfielders) and Curtis Gonzales (defender), who were part of the 23-man TT team at the Gold Cup, suffered as a result.

The T&T coach admitted that both himself and TT Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams met with the Pro League executive in January, to explain how important it was to get the season started in March.

“It was then explained to me why that was going to be a challenge and it reverted back to financial difficulties and no government subventions,” Lawrence said. “I have to accept it.”

The former T&T central defender said that he is yet to have a say in the proposed T-League.

“There was a commission put in place to discuss the new league,” noted the T&T coach. “I wasn’t even consulted or asked anything about my opinion.”

Lawrence will be turning his focus towards the resumption of the Concacaf Nations League in September.

“The only thing we can do is continue to train and prepare these boys as best as we can,” he said.