Our last genuine number 10 to have donned the Red, White and Black for the Trinidad and Tobago men’s national football team in the past 20-years is probably back in Scotland job hunting for a new coaching position.
And if by now you cannot guess who I am referring to, here is a hint, he is affectionately known as the "Little Magician".
Yes, that's right, his name is Russell Latapy, a T&T football legend. What was amazing about him, is that he could terrorize any defence, spray passes with pinpoint accuracy and get off a decent shot on goal as well.
Take for instance, he played only 23 minutes against Paraguay in T&T's third World Cup match appearance in Germany (2006). Apart from Cornell Glen’s goal efforts throughout the tournament, Latapy had more shots on goal than any T&T player who played more minutes and more games for T&T's entire World Cup duration.
Now that the former Soca Warriors midfielder has retired and is currently in the coaching business the hunt is on for T&T's next number 10 to lead them on the Road to Rio in 2014 and beyond.
Not that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) is searching, but we as supporters remain hopeful that Latapy’s heir apparent will soon emerge. As every T&T football fan knows, T&T is a small country, and it doesn't have a proper development football program at any level.
There is always some "bacchanal" surrounding T&T football and to top it off the players with possible number 10 capabilities aren’t willing to go the extra mile. They expect someone to come in and rescue them, as though their skill alone would get them to the Promised Land.
Now, I have heard of many great talents before my time such as some of the members of the 1973 WC team. Players like Everald Cummings, Leroy Spann, Leroy DeLeon, Bobby Sookram and Warren Archibald also come to mind. I was told by many that they were all top midfield players for both club and country, but for me to comment without seeing these men in action would be unfair, if so to speak, so I'll go with the players I've seen- leaving the foundation members with the respect they deserve.
To find another Russell Latapy or to a lesser entent, Kerwin Jemmott, Arnold Dwarika, Aurtis Whitley, Clint Marcelle or Hutson Charles might seemed far-fetched, however, here is a list of names I am going to juggle around that can potentially fill the creative midfield void;
Densill Theobald (29) - Currently T&T's best passer of the ball. Theobald is capable of making good through passes from any distance. His weakness, inconsistency and a lack of composure. His experience though is a plus. One for2014.
Keon Daniel (24) - Now that he has broken into a solid left wing player, we seemed to have lost a midfielder who would have been great in number 10 role. But is it too late? I don't believe so, or, I hope not? Daniel is clearly the most technically gifted player to come along since the Magician himself. With an abundance of skill Daniel could possibly be the one solve a lot of T&T’s creative problems on the field. One for 2014 and beyond.
Ataullah Guerra (24) - Here is another player I really like. In 2010, his former coach Terry Fenwick while still at San Juan Jabloteh told me that Guerra is a top midfielder and probably is one of the best based in T&T. He is another technically gifted player and if he gets serious mentally he probably would be playing in some elite European league. His main problem is that he loses focus during games and as a coach Terry had to continue shaking him up from the sidelines. Once his focus was regained though, he was pure class to watch. One for 2014 and beyond.
Hughtun Hector (26) – Hughtun played for T&T as a winger in the past and would probably play in that position under the current head coach Otto Pfister. But if I know a talented player when I see one, Hector is special. I was surprised when I heard the news that his New York Red Bulls trial was unsuccessful in 2010, and in my opinion that’s their loss. I think this player should be groomed to play behind the two strikers for T&T. He would be unstoppable in that position, a role Russell Latapy himself played effectively. One for 2014 and beyond.
Silvio Spann (29) - I have never seen his father (Leroy) play and from what I've heard, Silvio and any of his brothers combined couldn't add up to the talent their father once possessed. Unfortunately, the great players we had are no more, so we have to make the best of what we currently have. Not that Silvio is a bad player; he has shown great passing ability in the past and was a great asset to the Soca Warriors during the 2005 World Cup Qualifiers. However, his major flaw is one that plagues many of T&T’s footballers, that being inconsistency. But like Theobald, Silvio has experience, an asset that can’t be overlooked during team selection time. I would keep him in training with the T&T team with hope that his full potential will be finally be realized. One for 2014.
Khaleem Hyland (22) - Surely, Khaleem’s T&T's finest overall player in the past decade – bar none. The San Juan Jabloteh product went from strength to strength and is continuing to grow as a player, and definitely possesses #10 capabilities. Now would be the perfect time to groom him to rule the Soca Warriors midfield. Though not as creative as Arnold Dwarika or Russell Latapy, Hyland can play the attacking and defensive role quite effectively, and can be described as a David Nakhid/Hutson Charles type player. Another player who seems similar to Hyland's style of play is Under 23 captain Sheldon Bateau. I am totally impressed with this young-man's ability, he seems like a sort of Patrick Vieira type player. One For 2014 & Beyond.
Shahdon Winchester (19) - If only this player could realize what potential he possesses. Shahdon is a diminutive player, but is nifty and tricky in the penalty box. He works well behind the strikers and does have some silkiness about his passing. His main problem though is his discipline. Is Shahdon willing to go the extra to be the next #10? Only he can answer that question - One for the future.
Andre Toussaint (29) - After Atullah Guerra, I believe Andre Toussaint is currently T&T's best creative player locally. Toussaint should have been converted to a number 10 a long time ago. Is it too late? Time will tell as he is currently on Otto Pfister's training team and who knows what surprise tactics the German coach would bring. All should be revealed on August 10 when T&T faces Haiti in what would be Pfister’s first game as head coach, but please don't hold your breath. One for 2014.
Sean De Silva (21) – Sean definitely has the attitude and work ethnics to be a solid midfielder. Though, still green, in time I believe that he would be a main stay on the T&T side. His exemplary performance in the first round of the recently concluded CFU Olympic qualifiers was testimony to his potential as T&T’s future #10- One for the future.
Leston Paul (21) – I am quite surprised he was not on the current T&T Olympic team. Maybe his college obligations did not allow him the time to participate. Like De Silva, Leston falls in the same mold but is technically a bit better. A future captain and one to look out for the future.
Andre Boucaud (26) – Andre reminds me of Ronnie Mauge. He is packed with energy, determination, and is like a bull dog mentality. Andre has now move up the ladder to playing a more attacking creative style for his club. A definite prospect for T&T. One for 2014.
Justin Fojo (22) – I saw him played twice this year and he showed some intelligent passing ability. I believe Fojo deserves a look at for the senior team. - One for the future.
Jason Devenish (23) - Before his long term injury, the midfielder was one of the top midfielders at North East Stars alongside Marc Leslie, another good player. I believe Jason has a bright future, but I’m not sure what state he would be in after he comes out of rehabilitation. - One for the future.
Matthew Woo Ling (15) – Matthew is still very young, and I have seen clips of him which one cannot go by, even though they were all impressive. However, I was told personally by two of his coaches one being Terry Fenwick that he possesses great talent. In August 2010, Woo Ling was the lone T&T player selected by former England and Liverpool legend John Barnes along with eight other Caribbean players who travelled to Sunderland AFC. On completion of the coaching clinic that lead to Matthew’s selection for the one week Sunderland AFC training camp, he took home the award for the Most Promising Player. Let’s hope that this is the first sign of great things to come from Matthew. - One for the future.
Now that I have dug deep to find these number 10 candidates I plead with the TTFF to implement some sort of football program that would help harness and develop some of these talents.
We all know that Russell Latapy was a small individual who wore big shoes, shoes so big that since his international exploits that span over 2 decades, no one in T&T has ever come close to filling them.
However, the above mentioned names are a few possible players we can start working with and even if we have to combine any of them to fulfill the role of a number 10 then that would be something the fans could look forward to for the "Road to Rio" and beyond."
Over to you now TTFF!!!