Soca Warriors coach Hutson “Barber” Charles has made a call for England-based duo, striker Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City) and Ipswich Town winger Carlos Edwards, as well as US Major League’s Soccer Columbus Crew midfielder Christopher Birchall, to strengthen his squad ahead of the 17th Digicel Caribbean Football Union Cup finals next month.
The eight-team tournament takes place from December 7-16 in St John’s, Antigua, from which the top four teams will qualify for the Concacaf Gold Cup and having failed to finish among the top four in the last two editions, Charles is leaving no stone unturn as he continues his aim to restoring T&T football to the top of the regional ladder.
T&T, the eight-time champion, will open its campaign against long-time rival Haiti on December 7 in Group A followed by matches against host Antigua & Barbuda on December 9, and Dominican Republic two days later, all at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
On Sunday at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, the Jan-Michael Williams-captained Soca Warriors topped their second round Group Eight four-team qualifiers when they edged Cuba 1-0, to avenge a 2-0 loss to the same Cubans two years ago when T&T failed to qualify from its final round group.
With the win, T&T ended with seven points from three matches and extend its unbeaten run in the CFU qualifiers to six matches under Charles after a 1-1 draw with St Vincent and the Grenadines last Wednesday and a 3-0 trouncing of Suriname last Friday.
Following his team’s qualification to the finals, Charles along with his assistant coach Derek King and team manager William Wallace held discussions about possible changes to the team for the finals which are carded to get under in just over two weeks time.
Coming out of the technical meeting, the 47-year-old Charles capped 32 times by T&T and scorer of six goals shared that he has already sent out request to the clubs of Birchall, Jones, Edwards, Kevin Molino, Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union/US MLS) and Slovakia-based Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava).
He said, “These are the guys who we feel can add quality and something different to the squad right now and we expect that with Birchall, Molino and Daniel, all being out of season, there will be no problem in getting them to join the squad.
“With regards to Edwards, Charles noted that it was mainly because of Ipswich receiving the T&T Football Federation’s request late, that the former Soca Warriors captain was not released.
“We sent the request to Ipswich late the last time out, but in fact as we speak now we are sending out the letters to the clubs of the players and we expect to get replies with the next week.
He added, “We also see the need to have Jones in the squad while Peltier had indicated to us he will be available for the final because the Slovakian league is expected to be on a winter break during that time.”
Charles, who has been in charge of the team for nine matches now, with results of six wins, two defeats (both in friendly internationals) and a drawn, indicated that he will also have the availability of Vietnam-based duo Willis Plaza and Hughtun Hector as well as Robert Primus (Aktobe/Kazakhstan), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps/MLS) and Daneil Cyrus, who is currently away on trial, for the finals, making it a strong group to choose from.
Birchall, who has been capped by T&T, 39 times scoring four goals last represented the Soca Warriors in the ill-fated 2-1 Concacaf World Cup qualifying loss away to Guyana on November 11, 2011.
Edwards, meanwhile got his last of 89 caps in the home match with the Guyanese four days later featured in the return fixture, the same as Jones, who has 49 appearances.
Peltier got the last of his 16 caps in a 2-0 loss away to Canada on August 15, the same as Molino.
Commenting on the draw for the finals, Charles advised that starting against the Haitians, who are considered one of better teams in the competition, will be a challenge.
“We know it will not be an easy ask but as a team we have been improving with every match and for the finals we will be looking to kick off our title bid with a bang.
Looking ahead to his team’s preparations for the tournament which will coincide with the T&T Pro League Toyota Classic competition, Charles stated that both parties and the clubs involved will have to meet as soon as possible for the betterment of the national team.
“The Toyota Classic final is carded for December 7 and we are expected to start off the finals campaign on that same day and in the build-up we will also like an increase of training sessions, so its something all parties involved will need to iron out,” said Charles.
Group B of the CFU finals, to be played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, will comprise two-time defending champion and five-time winner Jamaica, French Guiana, Cuba and Martinique.