Tue, Jul

Molino: Eve has lost the locker room! 95% of the players don’t want him

Trinidad and Tobago international midfield ace Kevin Molino says he will not represent his country again under Soca Warriors head coach Angus Eve and gave a stinging review of Eve’s stewardship of the Men’s National Senior Team.

“For me I am done—I don’t want to be a part of this mess,” the 33-year-old Columbus Crew player told Wired868. “I don’t want to be part of a [set-up where the] national coach is using the national team for his own benefit. I don’t want to be part of that.

“[…] For me, he lost the locker room. One hundred percent, he lost the locker room.”

Ironically, Molino was Eve’s captain at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup and, on Wednesday, the national head coach named the US-based midfielder in a 40-man shortlist to face Curaçao and El Salvador in Concacaf Nations League A action on 7 September and 10 September respectively.

However, on the eve of the Men’s National Senior Team squad announcement, Molino told Wired868 that he had enough. And he singled out the head coach as the determining factor in his decision.

“This beautiful game should never feel like stress,” said Molino, who claimed that his Gold Cup experience left him so depressed his club arranged therapy to get him back in the right frame of mind.

He said Trinidad and Tobago’s national football set-up is three distinct groups at present: the players, the coaches, and the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee.

And he said the players feel that Eve was never on their side but, instead, was always looking to sacrifice their interest for his employers.

In the build-up to the Gold Cup, the players—represented by goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defender Sheldon Bateau, and Molino—requested match fees from the normalisation committee, which runs the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

But, as usual, the matter was left to drag on by the administrators until the day before their Gold Cup opener against Saint Kitts and Nevis. The players, Molino said, were not happy with Eve’s role.

“Fellahs, do not bleed the normalisation committee,” Molino claimed Eve told the boys at one point, during their pre-tournament camp.

The Soca Warriors got US$1,500 per match at the 2021 Gold Cup, plus bonuses. Molino claimed that the Normalisation Committee offered US$1,000 and tried to get the foreign-based players to accept it on the grounds that they earned most of their income from their clubs anyway.

“I was a young player once and I remember how it feels,” said Molino. “We want every player at the end of a big tournament like this to be able to buy a [little foreign-used] car or something. We can’t just represent ourselves; we have to represent the younger players too.”

In the end, after a threatened walk-out, the players got the requested US$2,000 per match from the Robert Hadad-led body. But, during the tournament, Molino alleged that Eve said the impact was felt by staff.

“His remarks were that some of the staff got a pay cut because we took all the money,” he said.

But the view that Eve was more interested in keeping Hadad happy than the players was far from Molino’s biggest beef.

The veteran midfielder argued that Eve was tactically not up to the task and the players felt they were constantly being made scapegoats to hide the coach’s shortcomings.

“Lasana there isn’t much tactics to work with, it is all individual,” said Molino. “There is no clear idea of how we want to defend, no clear idea of how we want to attack or what wing we want to go down. We don’t have [passing] combinations to create overloads, you don’t see relationships [between our different lines].

“[…] We don’t have a style of play, we don’t have a clear idea of what we want to do. It was only individual movements: you do this, you do that.”

Molino said players questioned Eve in a team meeting after their 4-1 loss to Jamaica, and it did not go well.

“Some coaches do not want to be challenged and the moment the coach was challenged after the Jamaica game, it became a big, big problem,” he claimed. “We had a meeting discussing what happened and a lot of players said a lot of things. Marvin [Phillip] was saying we don’t know what we are doing and for me I knew that was the end of Marvin.

“I spoke up and Sheldon [Bateau] spoke up. I said we focus too much on the opponents and not on what we want to do and how we want to break down the opponents. We also discussed why we changed the formation from the St Kitts game. He didn’t like it all.”

Molino claimed Eve was too thin-skinned to really take ideas on board from others and said it was frustrating for players who had the experience of working with more accomplished coaches.

“This is a job where you have to deal with criticism, whether you are a coach or player,” he said. “If you don’t want that then this is not the job for you—work in a grocery or wash cars or something.

“But he must never be criticized and never be challenged on anything concerning football, whether it is from the fans or the players or anyone.”

Against the United States, Trinidad and Tobago trailed 3-0 at the half and in trouble. Eve substituted Molino and Joevin Jones at the interval.

Eve replaced Jones with Shannon Gomez and Molino noted that the US-based defender played four different positions in 45 minutes.

“[Gomez] played right back, right wing, left wing and midfield in the same game, and the guy is a right back,” he said. “We have no clue. It was just all over the place.”

Despite being team captain, Molino said he never felt the coach knew how to fit him into his preferred direct tactics and claimed that Eve said that “you and Joevin are unbalancing my team” during one training session.

“Coming off after the first half the coach just turned and said ‘you off, you off’ to me and Joevin,” said Molino. “It was very disrespectful—no explanation, nothing. It’s the same I saw him do to other players and I didn’t like it.

“I said ‘why I’m off?’ He just said ‘because you’re off’. That is how a Trinidad and Tobago coach is dealing with players. Like if Trinidad and Tobago has a population like America or Mexico with a large pool of players.

“We don’t have a large pool of players so we have to come together and figure out how to [co-exist].”

Molino claimed Eve never took responsibility for the team’s poor performances but always laid it on the feet of the players. After the eventual 6-0 loss to USA—a joint record heaviest Gold Cup defeat—he said the Soca Warriors coach even suggested players might be match-fixing.

“He will say anything except ‘it was my fault as the head coach’,” said Molino. “[…] You are the coach and we lost, come out and take blame. To turn around in the locker room after the US game and tell your team how he has a bunch of weak players. But it’s you who picked the players.

“It was like against Jamaica when he said Jamaica has better players. Even if you think that or the world knows that, you cannot say that as a coach. Mentally how are you going to put your players in a position to want to play for you?”

Eve coached Molino at club youth level at San Juan Jabloteh and then Ma Pau SC. He said there was genuine excitement when he initially got the job in 2021.

But then it soon became obvious, to him, that Eve was out of his depth and unable to get the most from his players

“No matter what you do in life we are all human beings—we have to remember that no matter what the job is,” said Molino. “Deal with players as human beings and treat them as you would want to be treated.

“[…] Sometimes I would have to be the one to call players and tell them to keep the faith and say believe in yourself, your time will come. This is even players who were not on tour. Because we need everybody.

“As I said, we do not have the population of Mexico or America. You can’t just drop a player and not give an explanation or phone call. We are going to need each other one day.”

Molino said Eve told the players after the US loss that he was resigning as national coach. (In fact, his contract had expired—although it was quickly renewed by the Normalisation Committee.)

“After the game, he tried to make it not about Trinidad and Tobago but about himself: oh, he’s retiring and he’s leaving Trinidad and Tobago football in a better place,” said Molino.

Behind the scenes, Molino alleged that Eve tried to exploit the poor relations between several senior players and the Normalisation Committee to win himself a new contract—by throwing them under the bus.

The Soca Warriors had a scrimmage against Haiti on 17 June, which was also on Molino’s birthday and they had the day off on the following day. Molino said he told Eve that the players would go out for dinner to celebrate his birthday.

Two months later, he alleged that night out was used as an example of internal indiscipline, as Eve supposedly blamed players for the team’s poor results.

Molino is no stranger to such controversy, after he was dropped for twice breaking camp under former coach Stephen Hart. However, he said Eve tried to use his past against him in this case.

The Normalisation Committee, Molino suggested, are only concerned with money—not the players or the performances of the team. The Hadad-led run body has not activated a technical committee in over three years in charge of the local game.

“They don’t care,” said Molino, when asked whether he voiced the players’ concerns about Eve to the TTFA. “The results are there for everyone to see—it is clear and obvious. You can watch from the outside and tell if a coach has lost the locker room. You can tell we were disjointed.

“But do they care? No, they don’t care. We have a president who won’t even call players before a game and say ‘good luck’. All those things go a long way.

“(Late former TTFA president) Raymond Tim Kee would always come in and around the team and call to see how you were going. But with the last president (David John-Williams) and this president you don’t feel involved.”

Molino said he gave a lot to the national team and the red, white and black shirt as a national senior and youth player, over the past 17 years. But he has reached his limit.

“There are multiple times that I went to play for the national team, left injured and still worked to recover to come and play again in a few weeks,” he said. “That was not for money, that was not me looking for a vacation—that was my pride to wear that shirt. And to see how things transpired after [the Gold Cup], for me it was disrespectful to players whose dream it is to represent their country.

“For me that was the most hurtful thing; that made me decide I would never represent my country… It will hurt me a lot, it is going to take a while for me to actually swallow it—but if it is not for the betterment of the football, I don’t want to be a part of it.

“Until things get fixed, all it has for players on the national team is injury and criticism from my standpoint. Some guys’ bonus with their clubs is way more than what the national team giving and they’re giving up that to come and represent the country.

“And all the players ask for is respect.”

Molino first wore national colours almost two decades ago, when he helped Trinidad and Tobago qualify for successive Fifa World Youth Cup tournaments in 2007 and 2009.

At nation senior level, he was a Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinalist in 2013 while he is the joint seventh highest all-time goal scorer with 23 goals from 60 appearances.

Only iconic 2006 World Cup star Russell Latapy, who managed 29 goals in a 21-year international career, scored more goals as a midfielder than Molino—although the latter’s 13-year career was blighted by knee injuries that ruled him out for roughly two years.

Beyond Molino, Eve’s most prolific available international scorers are AEK Athens attacker Levi Garcia and Miami FC winger Ryan Telfer, who both have eight goals for the Soca Warriors—combined it is less than Molino’s tally, although Garcia and Telfer have 65 combined caps between them.

Molino said Trinidad and Tobago players are often cowed into silence, afraid to speak for fear of being blacklisted. It is an environment that has become especially difficult for him to handle under Eve, although he believes that he can still play for another two years at the highest level.

He admits that Soca Warriors fans have not seen him at anything near to his best form in some time. But he pointed to the timing of his injuries, which affected his rhythm under the current coach.

The problems within the team camp, he said, go beyond individual performances though. And, although he never wishes the team anything but the best on the field, he said it is hard to believe that they are on the path to success under Eve and the current TTFA administration.

“Ninety-five percent of the players don’t want to play—they call me all the time,” Molino told Wired868. “How can he look them in their eyes after he retired as coach after three months ago, he retired in front of them and blamed them for the team’s problems? A player is not going to respect you and a player is not going to play for you.

“I want people to know what is going on in Trinidad and Tobago football. Sometimes people think the result is just about the players but it is not just the players. The players actually put out a tremendous amount of effort.

“I fought for the red jersey!” Molino reviews time with each T&T coach

“[…] Many times, I didn’t have money to go to training. I used to sell bottles so I could go. My grandmother would help me with money to go training too, but I tried not to ask too much from her.

“Also Kaya’s (Micah Lewis) father would drive all the way from Petit Valley and pick me up to carry me to training sometimes.

“[…] There was something that Anton [Corneal] would do where he would make you train with a white jersey and you had to fight for the right to wear a red jersey. I always took that lesson in my life. You have to fight for that red jersey…”

In the following piece, Trinidad and Tobago’s seventh all-time leading goal scorer Kevin Molino talks to Wired868 about his international football journey with anecdotes on each coach:

Anton Corneal: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 team (2006-07)

(Kevin Molino was a key player as Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, with a 1-0 win over Jamaica—with Molino scoring the sole item.)

In that period, you’re young and you’re just having fun. Anton [Corneal] and Hutson “Baba” Charles were two people who really helped me a lot.

I remember in those days, many times I didn’t have money to go to training. I used to sell bottles so I could go. My grandmother would help me with money to go training too, but I tried not to ask too much from her. Also Kaya’s (Micah Lewis) father would drive all the way from Petit Valley and pick me up to carry me to training sometimes.

I am so grateful to have players like that around me—and also Stephen Knox, Robert Primus, Daniel Cyrus, Marcus Joseph, Jean-Luc Rochford. Those guys made me a better player.

There was something that Anton would do where he would make you train with a white jersey and you had to fight for the right to wear a red jersey. I always took that lesson in my life. You have to fight for that red jersey.

We went on a lot of tours in those days. We went to Holland, Paraguay, Brazil. That period, they were really invested in us and I think the players from that era should have at least qualified for one senior World Cup. We were well prepared.

I didn’t get picked in my first trial for that team and Kaya’s father said ‘come and try again’. So, I slipped back into the training for another chance and that time they kept me.

I am so grateful for all the people who helped me but especially Anton and Baba. To then go on to score the goal against Jamaica in Jamaica that took us to the Under-17 World Cup—it just shows all you need sometimes is that chance.

Anton and his staff were for the group and understood that we were 15 or 16 years old and some of us had no guidance and he had to work with us. I remember I used to come to training late a lot and he would talk to me about discipline. Some guys came with white jerseys and the neck [of the jersey] was brown because they probably had just one white jersey.

Sometimes Gouveia had to give us money to get to training and home. Sharon O’Brien played a good role too. They showed they cared about us. Not just Anton but the whole staff—that was the most important thing.

Favourite goal: My goal against Jamaica. It was a fast free kick that Jean-Luc [Rochford] played to me and I let it run across my body and slapped it to the keeper’s right.

That game was very difficult and they were fast, strong, and physical, but our trainer was Gilbert Bateau and we used to do a lot of fitness and strength work. We were up to it. Akeem Adams played really well in that game and he played an important role in that team too.

Zoran Vranes: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team (2009)

(Molino made it to a second successive Fifa World Youth Championship under Vranes.)

We didn’t get too many tours with this team. I remember Zoran had more of a European style of play, which was more long ball and diagonal balls. We were playing a 3-5-2 system. It was strange to us.

I didn’t play that much with him, as I was playing more school football at the time.

He was cool. It was just different and something we are not accustomed to in the Caribbean. But we were getting results. He was a fantastic person. He was always for the group and for the guys.

I can’t remember a favourite goal under Zoran.

Russell Latapy: Men’s National Senior Team (2010)

(Molino made his senior international debut as a teenager under Latapy and managed four caps, all as a starter. T&T were eliminated in the Caribbean Cup group stage though.)

I was shocked. I was 18 or 19 making my debut under my all-time favourite player and one of the best players ever to play in the Caribbean. There were a lot of experienced players around the team, so I was just sucking in information from everyone. And I was also hungry to put on that shirt.

Russell was always someone who knew how to motivate me. There was always a joke in camp when Russell gave you the two winks you knew you were safe.

Otto Pfister: Men’s National Senior Team (2011)

(Molino made four caps for Pfister and scored his first goal in a 2-1 loss away to Bermuda in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. T&T were eliminated in the Caribbean qualifying stage.)

Pfister was someone who gave me a lot of confidence. At that period of time, I was unstoppable in my head because of how much he believed in me. Every time he saw me he would say “Million Dollar Legs”. (Laughs)

Favourite goal: I got my first national goal under Pfister. Stern John hit the post and it came to me and I tapped it in.

I am really grateful to play with players like Stern, Devorn Jorsling and Trent Noel, but to me Stern stood out the most because of his mentality. He was so hungry and had so much desire. Spending that little time with Stern was so good for my career.

Hutson Charles: Men’s National Senior Team (2012-13)

(Molino scored two goals from five starts and four substitute appearances, as Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time in six years.)

I have tremendous respect for Baba. He was a great player and a great person. He is so humble, and he always wanted to motivate you. I always enjoyed playing under him.

Favourite goal: I think it was in the Digicel Cup against Martinique. I scooped it over a guy’s leg, chopped another player and shot in the corner.

Stephen Hart: Men’s National Senior Team (2013-16)

(Molino enjoyed the most prolific period of his international career with 13 goals from 15 starts and three substitute appearances, as T&T advanced to successive Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinals. However he missed the second tournament with a serious knee injury and was eventually cut from squad for breaking curfew—twice.)

We had an identity and we had a game plan under Hart—but we also had a lot of players who were playing outside in competitive leagues too. We had leaders like Jan [Michael Williams] and Kenwyne Jones who used to push us all the time to want to do well.

Hart always gave you the belief as a player and allowed you to be free. But most importantly, we had a way to play—from building out of the back straight to forward. Having a goal without a plan is senseless.

With Hart, you always knew your job. Like if the right stopper got the ball, the left midfielder would show for it; we would look for overloads; if Kenwyne got on the ball, the runners would go—we had a plan.

It had times I let my teammates down and I did with Hart. [Late TTFA president David] John-Williams was always trying to push Hart out and he tried to use me to do that. I remember he called me to find out what was going on in the camp and I was never on getting into that.

As a coach, Hart always dealt with me the right way. From a player to coach standpoint, we were never bad; but the president wanted conflict and he wanted him out.

Hart was a fantastic person and a fantastic guy. He loved the game and believed in his players and believed in what he wanted to do—because you can have a system and not believe in it. He used players according to their strengths.

Favourite goal: My goal against Honduras in the [2013] Gold Cup. I think Cornell [Glen] laid it off me and I took a touch and finished in the corner.

Tom Saintfiet: Men’s National Senior Team (2016-17)

(Kevin Molino never played for Saintfiet but did have an opinion, based on a few training sessions.

He was put in a position to fail—that is what I gathered. He was put there because John-Williams wanted someone to control. As soon he came, he came aggressive towards me and a couple players based on whatever John-Williams told him.

[…] I trained with him once or twice and I said I didn’t want to be part of this. I didn’t think he would ever last.

Dennis Lawrence: Men’s National Senior Team (2017-19)

(Molino scored five times for Lawrence from 13 starts and two substitute appearances, including at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. Lawrence had a record losing streak in charge though, as he tried to rebuild the team.)

Dennis was very, very professional. For me, he was one of the most professional coaches I ever played under.

[…] I remember his video guy would create a player profile of everyone we were playing against. He would monitor us constantly using our GPS and so on. Everything was very professional—but we just were not getting the results.

I remember that period of time we were phasing out some of the senior players and trying to get results in very difficult atmospheres with less experienced players.

Favourite goal: I think my favourite goal was the one in Costa Rica because of the atmosphere. It is a very difficult place to play. Someone crossed the ball and Joevin [Jones] squared to me and I used my left foot to hit it past the goalkeeper.

Terry Fenwick: Men’s National Senior Team (2020-21)

I don’t have much to say about Terry because I never really played under him.

Angus Eve: Men’s National Senior Team (2021-23)

(Molino scored in each of his first two games under Eve, but did not score again in any of his eight subsequent appearances. He captained Trinidad and Tobago at successive Gold Cups but was recovering from injury on both occasions and the Soca Warriors did not advance from their group.)

I feel like for that period I was always just coming back from an injury and not fit. It was difficult for me as a player.

Players were excited at first when Angus got the job. There is a new coach and you’re wondering what is in store for you. But then as you could see, we didn’t really have a game plan. It was clear and obvious even from the outside. But he never ever took responsibility. It was always the players or the referee, or something else.

He used everybody as scapegoats and I just had enough.

In the camp before the Gold Cup, he told us he was giving us one day off and asked what day the guys preferred. We were playing Haiti on June 17, which is my birthday, so I said we choose to take Sunday off and, after the game, a few of us went to dinner for my birthday.

I told him and he said alright fine. It was no problem then—that was before the tournament even started. But then after the Gold Cup, it’s all over the place that we “break camp”.

We were in Florida for three weeks and we couldn’t get one day to ourselves? Obviously, you have to be smart and professional but I think this is the most professional team I’ve seen. Nobody stayed out late, nobody went drinking.

How come that wasn’t a problem before? How come that only became a problem after people started calling for him to get fired?

But that is how he is. He is always looking for scapegoats and going back on his word.

The remarks he made to the team too was once we reach to Nations League A we were not camping in the [TTFA] Home of Football. Everybody hates there. But I’m 100 percent sure, they are going right into the Home of Football. Wait and see.

For me when it comes to national football, I’ve given everything. Yes, I’ve let my teammates down at times. But I think I’ve given a lot from since [I played at] National Under-16 level… I don’t want to be a part of this anymore and what the national team has become.

I think I have given everything I can give. Unfortunately, a lot of injuries played a part in me not reaching where I wanted to. So now I want to say goodbye to national football.

I am just grateful for all the coaches for being part of my life. They all helped me—also the managers, physios, equipment managers, even the journalists. (Laughs).

I’d also like to mention Peter Rampersad and the deceased [Raymond] Tim Kee.

I am very grateful they passed along in my life. I will never forget the moments we spent.

I wish them all the best and I hope to cross paths again.