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Sat, Jan

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AS TOLD TO BC PIRES

My name is Terry Fenwick and I was the last English defender Diego Maradona passed in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final to score the most famous goal in football.

In Trinidad, I see a lot in common with the small mining town near Sunderland in England, where I come from. Back doors were left open. One street would play football against the next street. All families knew each other.

Yes, the climate is very different, but the communities are very similar. They look after themselves, watch one another’s backs and want the best for their kids.

That’s very warming to me, as an Englishman living here.

In Trinidad, I’m from Maraval and I love it.

I’ve lived most of my 21 years here in Maraval.

My daughter, Remi Grace Fenwick, keeps me ticking. She’s four and a half, going on 24. She’s very, very bright – no doubt takes after her mum, Reyna Kowlessar. She’s 100-mile-an-hour.

She spends three or four nights a week with me. That’s covid entertainment right there.

Remi is my first daughter. I’ve got two grownup sons from a previous. Two great lads. George is a director of Credit Suisse, working out of Hong Kong. Nicholas runs the whole trading floor for Standard Chartered in London. Nicholas is looking to retire next March, when he’ll be 36. So he’s better off than a footballer!

Thank God both my boys love Trinidad, so I get them here regularly.

I left home at 15-and-a-half. Got on a train by myself at Newcastle station, got picked up at King’s Cross in London.

I was homesick like you wouldn’t believe the first year. I moved past that, made friends (and settled in as a young professional) at Crystal Palace.

I’ve travelled every inch of Trinidad and Tobago, football grounds all over, back alleys, parks.

And been welcomed everywhere I’ve gone.

I first came to Trinidad on January 4, 2000, recommended by Sir Bobby Robson (as prospective new coach of) San Juan Jabloteh.

The climate, then you hit the beaches and met the people, and it’s Carnival season, the fetes going right through the night and you have to work the next day.

It was quite amazing in comparison to the UK, where it was bloody freezing, and not that long ago, pubs closed at 11 pm and then you had to go home!

Jenny’s on the Boulevard…TGI Fridays…the Pelican. It was, like, wow!

I knew the job I was taking on was nothing more than a development programme. We call it the Pro League in Trinidad, but it’s far from professional.

I’d like to say loads of nice things about the Pro League but it’s actually got worse the longer I’ve been here. It’s in a mess as we speak. No leadership.

Corporate Trinidad’s got no confidence to put any money in there. Government are fed up of putting in the subvention.

There I was in my brand new X5 – thank you, Clico – in Morvant, stopped in the middle of nowhere. I had to climb 50 yards up a grass bank to get to my player’s house. Which was a shack. No glass in any of the windows, just a piece of rag hanging down. Brothers, sisters, family all round him.

A starting player in the World Cup side was coming home to this! I was gobsmacked.

It was amazing to me that Lawrence Duprey gave us two grade II houses at the Crossings, a Clico development (for two players from very poor backgrounds. With the condition that) these houses could never be sold, only passed down to their family. ‘Cause they would sell them tomorrow and the money would be gone.

This way, whether they rent, they will have an income, whether they live there, they will have a sound roof over their heads.

I took my whole team to Queen’s Hall to watch a play. Made them bring their girlfriends and wear a jacket and tie. Which some of ‘em had to borrow.

We done a lot of things away from football which was developing their mentality. Take them outside of their experience. So they could recognise the outside world.

In 21 years, I’ve had maybe two thefts of mobile phones in the dressing room.

If BC Pires says to me, “Congratulations on your appointment as national coach,” I say “Thank you very much! Can you help me to get paid now?”

At the end of this month, it’ll be a whole year without being paid.

I’m trying to limit my national squad to ages 16-21. The average age of the English national team today is 22.

In the World Cup qualifiers in 2018, the youngest player on the TT team was 27! The oldest squad in world football!

Unfortunately, in Trinidad, we hang on to college league football, probably the best supported football in the country.

In Europe, there are young professionals at age 14, 15. Marcus Rashford, eg, has played for three-and-a-half seasons for Manchester United – and he’s still only 21! He’s going to become another legend because of the games he’s played.

We just haven’t got that.

I’ve got 69 kids out on scholarships overseas, 88 players outside on professional contracts now. Miles more than anybody else.

But I keep my nose down. At the end of the day, I’m still the Englishman in the pack.

I practised like you wouldn’t believe to make myself a professional footballer but, where I grew up, there were players who played in the backstreets with me that were much better. That’s where I relate.

Maradona. He was a street fighter. If you boshed him, he would come back harder. He had that “bad mind.” as we say in Trinidad. I was in awe of bad-mind as bad as that.

I tried to stop him in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final. People won’t remember now, because it’s a long time ago, but he was off the field for nearly four-and-a-half minutes. Concussion. Through a clash with me. I thought, that’s Diego Maradona finished!

Only to see him warming up to come back on again! I thought, my God, what have I got to do? He was that good and that strong. He was nearly as wide as he was tall. Built like a pit bull, strong as an ox and skill sets I couldn’t begin to imagine.

The English national team in the 80s, coached by Sir Bobby Robson, structured, organised, we were a tough team to beat. We were the first European side to beat Brazil in Brazil through that great John Barnes goal.

But after the Hand of God goal, we fell apart. It was such a shock to us.

(Goalkeeper Peter) Shilton and myself saw the handball. Any other player in the world but Maradona would have kept their head down and saw the game out. Because they would have been worried about the Hand of God coming down on them after the game!

But he’s not worried about that. “Give me the ball, I’m going to score again!” And he did.

My favourite colour is probably red. Because Trinis wear red.

I’ve still got a Union Jack, still hang on to my British roots, but my house is white with red everywhere. I just think, “Trinidad is red.”

Anywhere in the world you bounce up a Trini, they’re carrying the Trinidad flag. Might be on a keyring, a T-shirt, the national football shirt. They carry it everywhere with pride. That’s the love of the country.

I’ve got all of that – keyring, T-shirt, national team shirt – and I take it all with me everywhere I travel.

When I go to England now, they call me “Terry the Trini.”.

To me, a Trini is “family” and Trinidad and Tobago is a family.

In the UK, when you’re 18, you’re looking for your own apartment.

I love that families in Trinidad stay together longer. There’s a love and a passion and a commitment to family members here that’s much better, much closer than the UK.


SOURCE: T&T Newsday