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TRINIDAD AND Tobago Under-23 coach, Angus Eve, has expressed full relief at the Minster of Sport’s pledge to ensure that the Olympic qualifying campaign for his charges will not be capsized amid the fiasco that engulfed national football this week between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) and the ex-nationals seeking monetary compensation for their World Cup run in 2006.

A reassured Eve admitted, “Our team has been on a fantastic run since 2010 and to see that this potential hard work could have been deflated would indeed be disheartening. When the issue broke out with the TTFF, of course, there were fears that our U-23s, as well as the Girls U-17 team, would be affected and may not get to the chance to run at the prestigious tournaments we all set our eyes on, but I must tip my hat off to Sports Minister Anil Roberts for pledging his full, undying support to these youth teams.”

Eve continued, “The Minister gave emphatic support and this went a long way to calming our nerves with his solemn vow. This solidified our stance and helped erase the worries creeping in. It’s a huge morale booster to see the Ministry and Government ready to ensure our cause is backed and our work is not derailed.”

With the team scheduled to depart today for Tobago, where they face a Tobago Representative XI coached by Bertille St Clair and the Guyanese national team on Thursday, Eve affirmed that they had a positive outlook on things, and this positivity was aided by their seemingly current exclusion from the TTFF debacle.

“All players are slated to join up in Tobago and we’re ready to go. We don’t have any serious injuries except for Robert Primus but he will be in Tobago doing light training,” commented Eve.

He admitted that the Kazakhstan-based Primus will be undergoing therapy as he cannot have full-contact as yet but once fit, he will be getting a few games under his belt as he approaches full-fitness for their final set of qualifiers in America. While Eve maintained that spirits were high and the roles of the squad were pointed out, he did express concern over their last performance, a 1-0 win over Finland last month in Tobago.

“We gave away possession too easily so we will be improving on this. We must keep the ball more. Our defence is solid and we sit deep well, but we must utilise our strengths more on the counter-attack. We have fast wingers but on the transition into attack, we need to keep possession and not give it away cheaply,” he relented while praising the lone-striker role that Jamal Gay plays.

“Jamal is one of our biggest assets and he plays well up front to hold up the ball. It’s a thankless job at times but he does it so well. This helps us concentrate on our counter-attacking play but we also must be fit as I want the boys to be supporting each other on each play and offering many options for passing,” he continued.

The former national player further conferred that like the Finland game, both encounters will be used to foster new players for the international stage by allowing unused players more exposure and experience at the international level. He pointed out that as the TT senior team rebuilds, they and the U-23s must realise that winning isn’t the absolute factor that determines the performance and capability of the squad.

“Getting exposure and vast amounts of experience against other senior teams will be the best remedy for our younger players. This helps them grow and is essential for their learning curve and sometimes, winning, in its own capacity, does not give you all of these developmental facets,” added the coach, who also praised Hutson Charles’ influence on him, the U-23s and the senior team.

Eve concluded , “We need to keep clean sheets and our defence as strong as possible. We have the ingredients to do this and while this is important, the U-23s need to elevate their goal-scoring ratio. The lack of goals have haunted us up front, but we will be rectifying this soon.”