Tue, Jul

Former national captain, Clayton Morris

FORMER Strike Squad captain Clayton Morris knew it would have been an uphill task for the Soca Warriors at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup, but said the performances proved that we have a long way to go to compete against powerhouses in the region like Mexico and US.

T&T did not qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament after finishing third in Group A. The Soca Warriors kicked off the Gold Cup with a 3-0 victory over St Kitts/Nevis giving some fans hope that T&T had a chance to qualify for the knock-out phase.

However against stronger opposition, T&T were brought back down to earth with a 4-1 defeat against Jamaica followed by a 6-0 loss to the US.

Morris said, “I was always reserved with my enthusiasm in seeing us progressing to the second round, (the) mere reason because of my experience both as a player and now a coach. Success is a process and you don’t expect things to change overnight.”

He said the T&T players lack speed.

“When Panama played Costa Rica and I also saw Guadeloupe against Canada and I saw the intensity those teams were playing at, it really had me concerned…if we could match that,” Morris said.

“I am not surprised what came out of this tournament because again what you put in is what will come out…it is clear we are strides behind. They could say what they want about we have players playing here and we have players playing there. Those players representing us I don’t think is the best we could put forward.”

Only six local-based players were on the 23-man Gold Cup T&T squad.

Morris said with so many foreign-based players the team will lack cohesion.

“Football is a team sport and you definitely have to have chemistry.”

The former Strike Squad captain is uncertain if the players understand the privilege to represent your country.

Reflecting on the Strike Squad period, Morris said, “You don’t want to blow your own trumpet, but you could have seen passion in the guys who represented T&T and that is 34 years ago. You are not getting that now, you are not seeing that with the players (and) even in the local leagues you are not getting that passion…we have to go back to the drawing board…I am saying it again, we are strides behind the Concacaf big guns, we are behind them. The coach’s goal was to get us back up there, but I don’t think we are close to that.”

T&T head coach Angus Eve has said repeatedly that he wants to see the national team show their class in the region again.

Morris, who said T&T’s starting formation at the Gold Cup at times was too negative playing with five defenders, said changing the coach will not fix the issues in local football as the players must look in the mirror and administrative issues have hampered progress.

The T&T Football Association is not fully functional as local football is being run by the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee.

“We are still under a normalisation committee that means we are not settled as a football association yet,” former Strike Squad defender Brian Williams said.

Apart from the TTFA, during the covid19 pandemic local footballers only got limited playing time. The TT Premier Football League kicked off in March allowing players to play regularly.

The former defender, who was hurt by the Gold Cup performance, said the local league must be more competitive and players from around the region should be brought in to lift the standard. “What took place there have to be very embarrassing because those types of performances and those goals that were conceded looked very amateurish and not to the level that we expect.”

Williams also questioned if the players understand what it means to play for T&T.

“We don’t seem to have that drive and that national pride in representing T&T in a meaningful way…before you could talk about national pride there needs to be self pride. If I am playing a football game I want to perform well.”

Williams suggested having workshops to let players know what it means to wear the national colours.

Rumours have been circulating that former T&T coach Stephen Hart may be appointed again to lead the Soca Warriors. Williams did not point fingers at Eve for the team’s performance.

“Even if you bring Stephen Hart and get rid of Eve…and we don’t have the players in a better frame of mind and get our players to compete internationally Stephen Hart will suffer the same problem.”

SOURCE: T&T Newsday