Sat12202014

Last updateFri, 19 Dec 2014 6pm

News

Edwards gets early crack at Gerrard, Crouch and Co.

Carlos Edwards is enjoying such an extraordinary few weeks that he probably sleeps with a grin on his face. As if qualifying for the World Cup with Trinidad & Tobago was not enough, his team were drawn in a group with England and the Luton player has an FA Cup tie against Liverpool today. A visit from the European champions is a particular treat for the 27-year-old after growing up supporting the club and pretending to be John Barnes.

The excitement is all the more acute for Edwards because he hopes to face Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher, all of whom are likely to be in England's squad to play Trinidad in June. "Hopefully I can actually see what they're made of and get the better of them," he says. "I'll be very happy if Gerrard or any of the big-name players play."

With Edwards a right midfielder or right-back he would not have Gerrard as a direct opponent but says it would be "an honour" to face Liverpool's captain. If the former Wrexham player sounds overawed, the impression is false. He emphasises that Luton, ninth in the Championship, respect Liverpool but adds: "On our day we can turn anyone around, when we click as a team."

Old allegiances will be forgotten. "As a kid I supported Liverpool," he says. "Growing up in Trinidad I remember watching games on the telly. Mainly they showed FA Cup and derby matches, and I always fancied Liverpool because of Ian Rush and John Barnes. They were my heroes and to be on the pitch with Liverpool would be something special - a dream come true. It would be even better if we can get one over on them."

Luton's results have dipped recently but Edwards knows about confounding expectations having helped his national team reach their first World Cup. Trinidad & Tobago is the smallest nation to have qualified for the tournament, with 1.5 million inhabitants, and it felt to Edwards like everyone on the islands came to greet the squad after the play-off win in Bahrain.

"The prime minister invited the team back for a welcome from the Trinidad people who support us all year round," Edwards recalls. "We had played on Wednesday and I think the prime minister gave them a public holiday on Thursday to celebrate and so everyone could come and greet us at the airport.

"When we arrived it was something I never imagined. I thought there would be people greeting us - maybe a couple of hundred. But people turned out in their thousands. On any normal day it takes half an hour from the airport to anywhere in Trinidad & Tobago. It took us six hours from the airport to the hotel."

Edwards cautions against the assumption that Trinidad have no hope in a group with England, Sweden and Paraguay. He describes the team as skilful, hard-working and inclined to attack. "Look at the last World Cup," he says. "No one was expecting France and Argentina to go out in the first round, or Senegal to create those upsets. I think it's our turn now."

Edwards knows, though, the damage Wayne Rooney can do. He was on Wrexham's bench, having just been taken off, when a 16-year-old Rooney scored his first senior goals for Everton in a Carling Cup tie at the Racecourse Ground in 2002. "He came on as a substitute, scored two goals and Everton won 3-0," Edwards says. "I didn't know anything about him until that day but he's worth every penny Manchester United paid."

At 16, Edwards's dream of a football career was on hold. His parents, Seventh Day Adventists, did not approve of his attachment to the sport. "My mum and dad are religious and at one stage my dad wasn't keen on me playing football," Edwards says. "His thought was that playing football would hamper my religious learning and stop me from my religious beliefs - that the football would have taken most of my time.

"I was still under his roof, still young and I had to obey his rules. At one stage he stopped me from going to about four or five games. But I left home the next year and started living on my own. Now he accepts I'm my own man."

He was playing for Defence Force, having volunteered for the military, when Wrexham signed him in 2000. He recalls "sweating blood" in military training. "It strengthens you, gives you a bit of discipline. Every morning you've got to go for a two-mile run, you do weapons training, go in the field for tactical training."

Edwards's wife Teressa, a singer, has toured the Caribbean with a church choir. "Once in a while she goes to a studio in Rhyl," Edwards says, "and she does a few gigs with a band and on her own sometimes." He says her music draws influence from gospel, rock, hip-hop and R&B. It could make for an interesting sing-off with Victoria Beckham next summer.