The recent performance by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Football Team in the Pan American Games hosted in Guadalajara, Mexico, finishing unbeaten in the group stage with three points against CONCACAF and South American giants surely wasn’t a fluke.
The team prepared and coached by head coach Angus Eve and assistants Derek King and Clint Marcelle all with coaching experience in the TT Pro League guided the Olympic squad to 1-1 draws against hosts Mexico, Ecuador and Uruguay.
Unfortunately the Olympic team didn’t muster enough points to advance into the semifinal round of the competition but matching the likes of Mexico, Ecuador and Uruguay earned the twin-island republic a lot of respect.
Eve and his assistants took over from Zoran Vranes in November 2010, ending a long-term occupancy of the Yugoslavian born coach.
“A lot of people don’t respect local coaches,” explained Eve, a former San Juan Jabloteh youth and senior team coach and Ma Pau SC coach.
“And if you watch the (TT Pro) League the majority of coaches are foreigners who have come in and have been given jobs. Also the national team because before me, Vranes had the (Olympic) team.
Take a look at Derek King (a former Joe Public coach) who has done well as a coach in the League and won titles. I myself have been there with Terry Fenwick (at Jabloteh) and we won titles and I’ve learnt a lot from him. I went over to Ma Pau SC and also won things there.
Another shining example in the League is coach Anthony Streete (of St. Ann’s Rangers) that don’t get a lot of credit.
He doesn’t have a lot of resources and he seems to always put in a good shift every time in terms of coaching the youngsters and getting them playing and organized in the right way. Rangers’ teams have never easy to play against.
While (Caledonia AIA coach) Jamaal Shabazz had to leave Trinidad to get an opportunity. Maybe that’s what we have to do. Leave Trinidad to get an opportunity,” continued the T&T U-23 coach.
“How are we going to get the experience when we don’t get the clubs to coach,” he questioned.
“I think that we have been going on all these courses and are fully certified and are learning the same thing that they are learning.
I went to the Digicel (Kick Start Clinic) over the weekend to see what John Barnes and the international coaches are doing and they are not doing anything different from what we are doing.
I think maybe some of our coaches don’t have playing experience for National Teams or abroad because I think that adds a bit of flavour to their coaching. But I do think we have a lot of talented coaches in Trinidad and Tobago who can do the job if given the opportunity.”
Eve and his staff have been in charge of the U-23s for exactly one year and are currently undefeated with four draws and two wins ahead of this month’s Final stage of Caribbean Olympic qualifying in St. Kitts with two teams advancing to the CONCACAF qualifiers.
The T&T U-23s will first take on Cuba on the 24th November, hosts St. Kitts on the 26th and Suriname on the 28th and Eve believes they are on the right track.
“The preparation (for the Final round of the Caribbean qualifying) is coming along very well. We just came out from the Pan American Games and I thought it was very good preparation because we wanted to go to Panama or Venezuela to play these types of games against these types of opponents of South American teams.
We have to still do a lot of defensive work, marking and tracking because we are not famous for that in Trinidad. But I thought we were excellent in Mexico. We really put in the work. We made a lot of friends and gained a lot of respect. And now we are into the final stretch going into the Olympic qualifying final stage of the Caribbean leg.
Suriname and Cuba are very difficult opponents in the sense that they are very technical and organized teams and I think we have to match that technical and organizational sense that they have. St. Kitts is going to very physical. They are also very organized and there coaches are doing a lot of good work.
It’s not going to be the easiest of tournaments, but I think we are on the right track in preparing for that coming off the tournament in Mexico,” said the former Trinidad and Tobago international.
Eve went on to add that his defensive coaching style comes from what he has seen from current Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho and from his time working under Terry Fenwick while at San Juan Jabloteh.
While his attacking style comes from watching Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger, former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard and current coach Pep Guardiola.
But what has complimented the coaching staff to its unbeaten run of form over the past year is the rich pool of talent present in the country’s top flight football—the TT Pro League.
With the likes of Seldon Bateau and Leslie Joel Russell (Jabloteh), Jamal Gay, Trevin Caesar, Aquil Selby, Micah Lewis, Zane Coker (Caledonia AIA), Jevon Morris and Kareem Moses (St. Ann’s Rangers), Joevin Jones, Mekeil Williams, Shahdon Winchester, Andre Marchan, Kenaz Williams, Jomal Williams, Jerrel Britto, Akeem Benjamin and Jayson Joseph (W Connection), Akeem Adams, Marcus Joseph and Aubrey David (T&TEC FC), Adrian Noel (Police FC), Jeromie Williams and Kaydion Gabriel (North East Stars) and Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force) there is no question of a shortage of talent all locally based.
And it is from this bunch with the exception of former Jabloteh and Ma Pau SC player Kevin Molino now the only foreign based U-23 player and Joe Public’s Kelon Mitchell, Jabloteh youth player College’s Dwight Ceballo, Carenage United that a squad was selected to match the likes of Mexico, Ecuador and Uruguay.
Failure is not an option for Eve and his staff equipped with such talents most of which are current standouts at the top local level.
On Sunday the U23 team returned to the training pitch and the coaching staff welcomed St. Ann’s Rangers wingback Akil Clarke and Defence Force’s Sheldon Clarke to the training squad but was without the North East Stars duo of Jeromie Williams and Kaydion Gabriel and Caledonia’s Trevin Caesar who is still nursing an injury picked up in Mexico.
T&T’s performances in Mexico also saw Molino, Micah Lewis and Jayson Joseph earn themselves tryouts with one of that country’s top clubs Pachuca FC.