T&T Soca Warriors coach, and former England international Terry Fenwick has described this country’s first-round exit from the 2022 Concacaf Qatar World Cup Qualification campaign as a big disappointment on Saturday night.
Fenwick was hired late last year under controversial contractual circumstances by former T&T Football Association (T&TFA) President, Williams Wallace after the firing of former national player and World Cup hero, Dennis "Tallest" Lawrence, who led the team in the previous qualifying final round of qualifiers for Russia 2018 without much success.
On Saturday night, the Soca Warriors quest for a spot at next year’s Qatar FIFA World Cup came crashing to a halt at the first hurdle, their earliest ever exit, following an underwhelming goalless draw against host Bahamas at the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau.
Going into the match, coach Fenwick’s men needed a win to have any chance of advancing to the next round and to keep pace with Group F unbeaten leaders St Kitts and Nevis which defeated Guyana 3-0 on Friday night, ahead of both teams meeting on Tuesday, the final round-robin match in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
However, a misfiring T&T line-up failed to score against group minnows Bahamas who had conceded 15 goals in their three previous matches, two 4-0 defeats against St Kitts and Nevis and Guyana and a 7-0 mauling from Puerto Rico on Tuesday last.
But just needed to win by any margin, T&T featuring a host of overseas-based players in the starting line-up failed to even score once.
With the goalless draw, T&T improved to five points from three matches, four behind St Kitts/Nevis who whipped Guyana 3-0 on Friday, with only one match left to play for each team and only the group winner advancing.
In their first two matches, T&T had blanked Guyana 3-0 on March 25, followed by a 1-1 draw with Puerto Rico three days later which left them trailing St Kitts and Nevis by two points after two matches, and needing to win their remaining two encounters to top the group.
For the Bahamians, it marked their first-ever point from World Cup qualification since a 6-0 win over Turks and Caicos in 2011.
Commenting after his team’s exit from the World Cup campaign, a sombre Fenwick, a former England 1986 World Cup defender when asked his thoughts on the unexpected result based on how the Bahamas had performed in the group stage thus far said: “First and foremost, I’ve got to hand it to the Bahamas, they had a game plan and they dug in deep. They wore their hearts on their sleeves, they fought for every ball, and they grinded out a result.
Trying to find answers for his team’s miserable display, Fenwick, a former winning T&T Pro League coach with San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC said, “I’m very disappointed for us in T&T.
“We squandered our chances and the quality of players that we have got within the squad, this is a big disappointment.
He added, “We didn’t give any chances away really ourselves and we created possibly six, seven, eight chances and didn’t convert and if you don’t score at this level, teams can come back and bite you.
“And I thought that’s what they did. The Bahamas showed a lot of pride and passion played for their country, and the chances that we missed were glaring.
With their campaign all but over, under-fire Fenwick and his players will now turn their attention to their Nations League Qualifier against Montserrat on July 2.
However, with the match against St Kitts and Nevis on Tuesday left to play, Fenwick said his team will look to give the group winners a run for their money. The team arrived in the Dominican Republic yesterday.
He said, “We will be going into that match with the same game plan used against the Bahamas.
“We obviously thought we would have had a better result than we had, but we have got top class players and we have some good youngsters coming through and it’s time to see them, and we will give St Kitts and Nevis a good run for their money.
Asked if any changes in the team can be expected for Tuesday, Fenwick replied, “Possible we can see a different formation, but I will be looking for better going forward, creating chances which we did today, and our finishing was poor.
Trinidad and Tobago football team puts old wine in new skins
By Stephon Nicholas (T&T Newsday).
Trinidad and Tobago put old wine into new skins in Nassau on Saturday, but the brand new BOL kit designs failed to mask the deep problems in local football.
Instead, T&T football sank to a new low after an abysmal performance in a 0-0 draw against 201st-ranked Bahamas.
The shocking result ended the country’s 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign before it had really begun.
Assistant T&T coach Kelvin Jack buried his head in his hands at the final whistle, perhaps replicating what Soca Warriors fans had been doing throughout the 90 minutes of frustration by coach Terry Fenwick's team.
Bahamas certainly gave their all, showing pride and grit after conceding 15 goals unanswered in their previous three games.
In contrast, the Soca Warriors looked uninspired, discombobulated and without purpose, as Bahamas refused to roll over.
BOL, a Miami-based sports apparel company, is charging US$90 each for the new designs.
Coach Fenwick, after the game, blamed TT's profligacy in front of the goal for the draw.
"We created about six, seven or eight chances and didn’t convert – and if you don’t score at this level, teams can come back and bite you, and I thought that’s what they did.”
T&T's shooting was certainly poor, but Fenwick hardly told the full story of a must-win encounter.
Errant passes from both sides were prevalent throughout the game and gave Bahamas belief, as the match grew on, that the Soca Warriors were perhaps at their level.
T&T players looked unsure about where they should be on the field or where their teammates were. The intent to score was there, but the approach to the end product was lacking.
National captain Khaleem Hyland's late arrival to the camp from Saudi Arabia, 24 hours before the game, meant he could only join in the second half – and his absence on the field showed.
But even so, T&T still should have had enough talent to take care of business against a very weak Bahamas team. Footage after the game showed the Bahamians, bottom of Group F, celebrating their point – their first in World Cup qualifying in over a decade.
Fenwick certainly has to take the majority of the blame for the campaign's abrupt end – although there was no mention of that in his post-match interview in the Bahamas. The Englishman, after over a year in charge, has yet to leave an imprint on the squad.
Off the field, meanwhile, there have been unnecessary distractions, including a confrontation with team media officer Shaun Fuentes over media personnel being invited to media conferences.
Against Bahamas, Fenwick was unable to effectively utilise AEK Athens' Levi Garcia down the right flank. On the left side, multiple MLS champion Joevin Jones struggled to make an impact and was forced backwards regularly.
A swap of flanks might have given Bahamas something different to think about. It never happened.
Instead, the minutes ticked away with T&T no closer to breaking the deadlock.
As T&T struggled to string together passes, it took them almost the duration of the game to try a more direct approach. Unsurprisingly, it was a free kick from the left, which Neveal Hackshaw headed onto the post, which almost rescued T&T.
Too little too late.
Accountability and transparency remain issues that keep T&T football stagnant.
How did T&T reach here, a Soca Warrior fan living under a rock might ask.
It was less than a year ago that FIFA threatened to throw T&T out of the World Cup campaign without a ball being kicked.
Football administrations continue to play the blame game so endemic to the country. The FIFA normalisation committee points fingers at United TTFA, United TTFA blames David John-Williams, and John-Williams says it is his predecessors’ fault – all while football deteriorates and each administration makes similar mistakes.
Just last week women's football director Jinelle James acknowledged not adhering to proper protocols, under the normalisation committee, in the appointment of two assistant coaches.
Fenwick's contract – US$20,000 a month – has been fraught with controversy, with ex-TTFA president Wallace refusing to accept the blame for signing a deal which was supposed to be for US$17,500 a month.
Former technical director Keith Look Loy said other perks in the contract were never brought to the technical committee or the board – a car, a phone and paying Fenwick’s taxes.
United TTFA had promised an open style of governance and to do things differently from John-Williams.
Local football is at a tipping point with the covid19 pandemic and its economic impact huge obstacles to its progress.
Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe recently hinted that the Pro League would not receive automatic support from the Government as she called for a proper business plan. Football remains the most popular sport locally, but investment without a proper plan and execution would be spinning top in mud.
T&T needs to be rebuilt properly from the ground up. Ex-T&T captain Kenwyne Jones, immediately after the game, began urging people to be proactive and get certified to get involved at all levels.
Super League and Pro League teams must engage their fan base to build support and rivalry. Women's football must not be an afterthought.
It's been 20 years since four stadiums were built for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. But the last time a football event drew a capacity crowd at one of the main stadiums was December 2, 2014, when Ecuador beat T&T’s women 1-0 for a spot in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
It should be a reminder that infrastructure alone does not translate into sporting success.
On being elected TTFA president in November 2019, Wallace said, "When we start to play good football, the fans will come out.”
Judging from the latest performance under Fenwick and the normalisation committee, it's gonna be a while.
Strike Squad defender Brian Williams laments World Cup exit
By Jonathan Ramnanansingh (T&T Newsday).
TRINIDAD AND Tobago football is at its lowest point ever and in dire need of divine intervention in all aspects of the game.
So says Brian Williams, former 1989 Strike Squad defender, who believes the future of T&T football lies within the creative minds of ex-national players, who wish to one day, return the Soca Warriors to being one of the region’s most feared teams.
The 59-year-old dubbed T&T’s “disappointing” exit from the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers as a cause for “major concern” and called on former players to come together with the sole intention of reversing the team’s downward spiral.
Williams made these remarks following T&T’s 0-0 result against Bahamas on Saturday, which saw them unable to advance to the next Concacaf qualifying round and omitted from 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification.
“The major concern is where do we go from here?" asked Williams on Sunday. "The way we went out was embarrassing. People are disappointed. It was difficult for me to even carry high expectations for us to qualify for the World Cup.
“We are expected to go past teams like Bahamas. I think we got to look seriously in rebuilding our football. It cannot get any lower than this I think. We’re down and we need to get back up.
“We got to rebuild and put things in place with the footballing minds that we have available. Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, Dennis Lawrence, Shaka Hislop, Brent Sancho, Clayton Morris, David Nakhid, myself and other footballing minds of the future have to come together,” he said.
Williams, a past national men's team assistant coach and former T&T Under-20 men’s coach, called on coach Terry Fenwick and the players to accept total responsibility for the upsetting result which ended all hopes of the nation’s presence at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
While he thinks that last year’s legal wrangling between the TT Football Association (TTFA) and FIFA, the challenges which followed (with FIFA appointing a normalisation committee to oversee the TTFA's affairs) and the covid19 pandemic may have had negative impacts on the team's preparations, Williams does not believe these issues should be used as scapegoats for the squad’s poor performance.
Prior to the Bahamas draw on Saturday, T&T defeated Guyana 3-0 (March 25) and drew 1-1 against Puerto Rico (March 28) in their other Group F qualifiers. St Kitts/Nevis, however, won all their three matches to date and, with an unassailable nine points, they will advance to the next stage of competition, despite the outcome of their final group clash against T&T on Tuesday. The T&T-St Kitts/Nevis match will take place at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Williams said, “I coach the game but I didn’t see any enthusiasm and drive by the players. You’re not seeing the players trying to play in some way to really win a football game.
“We got take responsibility, even as coach. Fenwick has to answer and take responsibility like everyone else. The coach, more so, is responsible for a team’s performance.
“When I looked at the game I saw nothing. All of us who represented the country and have it at heart were totally embarrassed with what we saw on Saturday. We have to get together and put our football administratively and in all other aspects, in place,” he added.
Similarly, former national captain and English Premier League striker Kenwyne Jones took to social media to voice his concerns on the team’s performance. He, however, was not critical of their showing but sought to encourage his fellow countrymen to find solutions to help T&T out of its current footballing demise.
Jones posted to Facebook, “To my friends, past teammates, put aside your fan view for a moment and be proactive, get qualified in sport business and administration, coaching at all levels to ensure that we help develop our sporting culture and practices in this country.
“It’s no use sitting at home now being critical of what we see now if we're not actively trying to be a part of the solution.”
Having arrived at the end of T&T’s 2022 World Cup qualification campaign, the squad will soon shift their focus to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
TT begins their Gold Cup quest against Montserrat, in a preliminary round match, on July 2 at the DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. The winners of this match will play the winners of the Cuba-French Guiana fixture on July 6, for a chance to join Mexico, Curacao and El Salvador in Group A.
The group stage will run from July 10-20, followed by the knockout stage (July 24 to August 1).
Looking ahead to the Gold Cup qualifiers, Williams does not see much room for improvement with just over three weeks to go. He questioned the team’s strategy going forward.
“We cannot carry hopes into the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is just a few weeks away. What do you see could be done in any meaningful to have a great impact in such a short space of time? What is our approach to this competition? We’re not on solid ground,” he said.
In conclusion, Williams agreed with Jones’ statement and believes all avenues of local football must be reassessed if T&T is to, once more, return to being a formidable force in the Caribbean.
“We have to go deep into disappointment. And we’re here. We have to deal with the reality of things; how football has been going in T&T, the challenges we had, the pandemic and how we can move forward.
“The talent gap among nations is closing but we are regressing. We should have been moving higher up the rankings (FIFA). What we need to do is to look seriously, including myself, to get involved to trying to assist the football and moving in the right direction.
“The answers are simple but several,” he closed.