National Under 20 Team head coach Zoran Vranes had his complete roster of twenty-two players available to him for the first time on Tuesday as English-born Southampton FC midfielder Jake Thomson joined the team camp in Lanarca, Cyprus.
Thompson arrived from London in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and after a couple hours rest, he was presented with his training kit and was out on the training pitch with skipper Leston Paul and the rest of the squad.
Also joining up with the T&T team was Spencer Wood, a renowned leader in the field of mental skills and toughness training. Wood has presented at international conferences including the NCAA Women's Final Four and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention. He has also worked with the T&T Olympic Committee and has presented at a symposium for select NCAA Men's Basketball and NBA coaches. He first linked up with the National Under 20 team during a camp in Tobago prior to the CONCACAF final round of qualifiers earlier this year.
Wood, whose trip has been funded by TTFF Special Adviser Jack Warner, will work with the T&T Under 20s throughout their stay in Cyprus.
The man of the moment on Monday though was undoubtedly Thomson as he met up with his new teammates and seemingly fitted in right away. He appeared comfortable throughout his first session under Vranes and reassured is commitment to T&T.
Thomson credited former Southampton striker Stern John for influencing him to take up the invitation to play for T&T. They both spoke some months ago and then after meeting with T&T team head of delegation Cheryl Abrams in London earlier this month, travel bookings were immediately made for him to fly over to Cyprus and arrangements were finalized for him to obtain his T&T passport.
“Stern John played at Southampton and he spoke to me a couple of months ago and I am just decided at that point that I wanted to come and play for Trinidad and represent the country. I’ve never been over there yet, it was just exciting and I wanted to see how the fans would react as well. I also met Kenwyne (Jones) when he first came over to Southampton and he told me how great the place was but Stern was the one who persuaded me and it’s good for me because If they weren’t there then maybe I wouldn’t have this opportunity now,” Thomson told TTFF Media on Tuesday.
“There were no second thoughts. I spoke to Stern and he had nothing but good things to say. As soon as I found out that they wanted me to come out and play I jumped at the chance and wanted to come out right away,” added Thomson whose father is Trinidadian.
Thomson has represented England at the Under 17 level but now he claims that he sees his future as a T&T player and he has ambitions to play for the Senior Team.
“I see myself with T&T. It was nice to be representing England but there are so many youth players thee because they have such a big pool. You are treated well but there are so many players and one moment you’re in and then you’re out. With Trinidad I think it’s more like a family and you stick together. It’s a nice feeling to know that you’re wanted,” he added.
T&T’s qualification and participation at Germany 2006 was the occasion that raised his eyebrows.
“When they got to Germany and playing against England. I watched that game and it was impressive because it’s such a small island and to get to a World Cup is not easy. If they can do it then they’re only going to improve and if I can help that then obviously I want to. And obviously I want to play for Trinidad and Tobago at the highest level with the senior team one day,” Thompson continued.
And his message to the fans: “Hopefully I can entertain them because football is entertainment and I hope I can bring some joy with my game.”