Wed, Mar

Former national player and current club coach Ron La Forest

Over-looked for a top coaching job in T&T for far too long, Ron La Forest, a former national striker turn coach, is sending a message to the powers that be, that he can coach too.

Not only can he coach, but the "Professor" as La Forest, is fondly called, has had success with almost every team he touched, dating back to 1984 when he retired from the game as a player and took on the coaching job of Frontline FC in the Northern Football Association (NFA). There he won both the League and Knock Out titles.

This success continued with ECM Motown two years later, and then at T&T Pro League campaigners San Juan Jabloteh in 1999/2000 where he was voted 'Coach of the Year' in consecutive years.

La Forest also enjoyed successful stints with Joe Public Football Club in the Pro League and then Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), but his crowning moments came at St Anthony's College in 2001/2002 and with Guaya United where he exceeded all expectations.

At the West mooring Tigers, La Forest made a clean sweep of all the titles at stake in 2002, after scoring 106 goals and conceding 13 in a season where they played 23 games, won 22 and drew one game.

At Guaya he led the team to victory in the Eastern Counties Football Union (ECFU) competition, as well as the top position in the Champion of Champion play-off which earned them entry into the National Super League in 2013 for the first time.

La Forest told Guardian Media Sports on Tuesday that he was ridiculed at a press conference ahead of the 2013 T&T Super League start, as he was told as first-timers to try and not be demoted. Instead, La Forest's determination to prove them wrong when he guided his charges to a historic feat of being the first time a debutant team had won the League.

Despite this, and other achievements at all levels, La Forest believes his hard work and talent have been ignored, saying: "I am deeply saddened which is why I decided to do this interview. I have been serving for all these years, I have given my life to the game for all these years and still giving my life to the game, and I've been overlooked. With this new Normalisation Committee coming into existence, I hope someone will look at me and give me a chance to give back something to the game," La Forest said.

He had three stints at the national levels, as the under-17 coach in 2001: the under-21 coach in 2004 and as an assistant to Bertille St Clair in 2005 on the senior national team, saying after that he has been discarded of.

The Carenage resident who guided Hydro Tech Guaya United to the League and Knock Out titles in the Super League in 2017, said he is ready to throw his hat back in the ring for a coaching job because of the state of our football: "Right now my hat is ready to go into the right because I feel saddened by what I have seen with the football and where the football is going. A lot of things missing from it and I feel in that department I can make a great contribution."

His contribution stems from back in the early 1970s as a player at Belmont Intermediate to the T&T national teams at all levels, and for the Defence Force football team and ASL, where he grabbed all the newspaper headlines and spotlights on the television as a striker, scoring hundreds of goals.

La Forest also had the distinction of being the first player from the Caribbean to play in Hong Kong in 1984 before ending a career that saw him come face-to-face with the world's greatest Pele and world-renown coach from Brazil Carlos Alberto Perreira, among many others such as Welshman Ryan Giggs, who is now the coach of Wales National team and a former Manchester United stand-out.

All these achievements have been captured in a book he produced recently to remind him of the history and legacy in the sport. He said the book will also enable the many young budding footballers to know who is is and his worth.

La Forest explained that as a former army man he will bring a level of discipline to the game if he is given the opportunity to coach at the national level again.

He said coaches in the past have not utilised T&T's strength in the game which is skilful football. La Forest has since started his team by the name Real West Fort where he intends to contest the Ascension League, the Super League and eventually the Pro League.