Despite a six point lead at the top of the Digicel Pro League, Central FC’s Managing Director, Brent Sancho has stressed to his players and staff the importance of winning the 3 Pro League games scheduled before Christmas.
Sancho, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2006 World Cup, is determined to create history by winning three consecutive Pro League titles, a feat that the former Minister of Sport believes will never be repeated.
The Sharks face Club Sando, Morvant Caledonia United and Defence Force before taking a short break over the Christmas period.
“People are already saying that we have won the league, and I have impressed upon my players that this is certainly not the case. We have 8 games left and must win seven of those to claim the title.”
Sancho pointed out that no clubs can be considered as weak. “Club Sando’s coach, Angus Eve has just taken Naparima to the Big Four title, Caledonia knocked us out of the First Citizens Cup and Army are always dangerous when they have a striker like Jorsling still regularly scoring goals.”
The former Dundee defender said that Central’s task has become harder due to lack of funding. “Despite support from Maritime Financial, the club is struggling financially. We have not received subventions from SPORTT for October and November and we still are owed prize money from 2015 and 2016. To add to our problems we only have 17 fit players at this time and with the high intensity style of our play, I am concerned about the health of my players”
And Sancho’s worries escalated when he was informed that new national team Head Coach, Tom Saintfiet, has called three Central players to his first provisional squad.
“However, I am bitterly disappointed at the manner in which this news was relayed.While I understand that the coach is under a lot of pressure, he must understand that clubs have their own schedules and priorities which existed before he arrived here.”
Sancho said that his club received a letter on Tuesday 13th December requesting Sean de Silva, Nathaniel Garcia and Jan-Michael Williams to attend a non residential training camp from Thursday 15th.
He added “We also received a request the same day inviting coaches to attend a meeting with Saintfiet at 11am on Wednesday 14th. To me, both of these requests were unworkable. As much as I am pleased to see my players receive long overdue call ups, Saintfiet should have first consulted Pro League coaches to determine if the players would be made available. This is a busy and crucial stage of the season and I cannot afford to lose key players for up to five matches.”
But instead of consulting with the clubs, Saintfiet called a meeting of the coaches after his squad had been announced.
“My Head Coach was not available to attend the meeting as we already had training booked at Ato Boldon from 9-11 a.m. on Wednesday.” said Sancho.
“I wrote to TTFA as soon as I received the letter requesting our players, and explained that I could not release the players into his camp until December 24th. I did, however, speak to the players concerned and told them I would be happy for them to train with the national team on some days throughout this period.”
“I received a call from National Team Manager, Azaad Khan, requesting me to speak to Saintfiet on speaker, during the coaches meeting. As I began to explain my clubs position concerning our players and that I was happy to reach a compromise, Saintfiet aggressively interrupted me and made it clear that he thought we had a “third world” attitude and it was our fault that we had such a small squad.”
Sancho continued “He then made it abundantly clear that if the Central players did not report for training, they would not be considered. He then hung up abruptly.”
Sancho said he was “shocked, disappointed and disgusted” by Saintfiet’s tone, his manner and his lack of respect. “Central F.C. have always been supportive of all national teams, even when players have been selected outside of the FIFA windows, as is the case here. We had a very cordial relationship with Stephen Hart, who would call clubs to discuss availability of players. It’s a matter of respect. I’m certain that Saintfiet would not have spoken to the owners of Orlando City about Kevin Molino or AZ about Levi Garcia in the same manner and tone.”
“Is it because Saintfiet feels we’re a third world country? Despite his indiscretion, I still fully support the team’s campaign to qualify T&T for Russia 2018.“ added Sancho.