“I didn’t expect to play (against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup) and, when the red card occurred,” former Trinidad and Tobago World Cup player and stand-out Cornell Glen told Wired868, “I thought we would go on to lose by about four or five goals because they were bombarding us. So I was shocked when (coach Leo Beenhakker) called me.
In part two of his exclusive chat with Wired868, Glen remembers the 2006 World Cup and working with former Trinidad and Tobago, Netherlands and Real Madrid coach Leo Beenhakker.
Wired868: What can you remember about that third 2006 World Cup group game against Paraguay when you were injured?
Cornell Glen: I remember it as if it was yesterday. It all happened so simply. I skipped a tackle and the turf shifted and all my bodyweight came down on my knee and snapped the ACL.
I heard a pop in my knee and I knew something wasn’t right. I was in a lot of pain. They rushed me straight to the hospital and did the MRI. I cried and I cried. It was not only the pain was agonising but I felt I could have scored in that game. It is one of those games where you feel it because I was doing everything right in that game.
After that, I didn’t get a call (from anyone from the TTFF). Not even from the doctor. Nothing at all…
Wired868: What would you say was your worst time as a national player?
Glen: [Pauses for a minute] I think under (Hannibal) Najjar was the worst time for me. The conditions were terrible and I wasn’t comfortable at all… One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen is when he called 91 men out to train (in a massive screening exercise). [He Laughs]
Wired868: And what was the best time?
Glen: I think my time under (Leo) Beenhakker and at the 2006 World Cup was the best time. But under Bertille St Clair I was the fittest and sharpest that I’ve been as a player. Under (Francisco) Maturana too.
I remember we went to Argentina (under Maturana in January 2009) and played three or four practice matches and I scored in about everyone. [Glen did score in every game. There was a 1-1 draw with Argentinos Juniors B team, a 3-0 win over second division Quilmes and a 3-2 win over Tigres]. And then we came back and they played Stern (John)…
Looking back, I think I got a raw deal so many times because you might be playing and fit and they select someone who is at a bigger club but not playing for the bigger club.
That is the workings of the national team with third world countries. Guys with bigger clubs but not playing will be selected in front of guys who are playing (with smaller teams).
Wired868: Your last game for Trinidad and Tobago was two years ago at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup against Mexico. Do you think you have played your last game for the “Soca Warriors?”
Glen: First of all, let me say that people said they needed to bring in young players into the team. But I was 32 when I played my last game for Trinidad and Tobago. Because that is when coach (Stephen) Hart stopped selecting me in 2013. If a player is too old at age 32, I feel sorry for all the 32-year-olds in Trinidad…
Even at age 32, I think from the national team strikers available I was the one who was playing the most with my club and in-form and fit and ready to play. Even now, I think I have played more football than anyone else on the national team.
Wired868: Have you ever discussed your international career with Hart?
Glen: We spoke recently and he basically said the reason for me not being selected was because he wasn’t getting enough games on the FIFA dates to rotate his squad. So he didn’t want certain players to lose confidence when not selected (to bring me in).
As much as I don’t agree with his explanation, I just want to say that I respect his decision and support the team 100 percent. (But) I’m not retired and no one will force me into retirement. All I can do right now is continue performing and scoring goals for my club.
I understand he is looking to go for younger players but in my opinion—and I have a US B’ coaching license—I don’t think we have such a large pool of players like Brazil and Germany to just phase out experienced players for fresh legs. I think you need to integrate the younger players with the experienced players over a period of time.
You can’t have a team with no leaders and I think that is the biggest problem with the team today. There are a lot of egos in the team and no one to lead.
Another problem I think he will face in the World Cup qualifiers is the fact that (a lot) of his players are not playing with their respective clubs and he won’t have as much time to work with them as he did before the Gold Cup to get them fit.
Wired868: But can your body handle the rigours of international and club football at this stage in your career? Didn’t you need special provisions for training due to niggling injuries when you trained with co-coaches Jamaal Shabazz and Hutson Charles?
Glen: That is the first time I am hearing about that. I have never missed a training session under Hart or Jamaal Shabazz. I have never missed a training session or asked to be sat out or complained about a knee injury or anything with the national team. Never.
The only problem I had with Jamaal Shabazz and them going into the (2013) Gold Cup was match fees. I spoke up about it in a (team) meeting and some player went back and told the coaches and again the label was put on me that I was being disruptive within the camp.
But how can a coach sit back and ask players to play for pride? You are trying to secure your own job but the players are playing for nothing.
I know the two assistant coaches (Hutson Charles and Derek King) had a problem with me before because I had no problem with coach Hart. So I don’t know if it stemmed from that why they don’t want me in the camp. But I’m the kind of person, Lasana, if there are money problems, I will speak up about it. Because if I am not satisfied, I am not going to play. Because I know what it is to lose a lot for the national team.
Wired868: Okay. Can you tell us more about your happiest moments with the national team?
Glen: The World Cup was my happiest time. And this is going back to a coach who supports his players, which is why we were so happy. From the qualifiers to the end of the World Cup tournament, Beenhakker stood up for us. He made sure we were taken care of properly. He was a coach who fought for his players and that is when you gain respect.
The reason why we were all happy is it was even across the board too. There were no superstars. Not because you were Dwight Yorke, you could just walk in the team. And he made it clear on his first day that if you are not playing for your club he was not going to select you. It put you in a competitive state of mind even when you were with your club. When you came into the national team, you were always match fit and firing.
Wired868: Can you give an example of how Beenhakker managed the team?
Glen: Well, a lot of people still talk about when Dwight came late to one session before a qualifier in Trinidad and he told him right in front of everybody: ‘Don’t ever f**king do that again. I don’t care who you are.’
But there is another story that most people don’t know. If you remember after the (2005) Gold Cup, he didn’t select me for a number of matches leading up to the Bahrain (FIFA Play Off) game. I actually didn’t play any World Cup qualifying games for Beenhakker.
There were problems at Columbus Crew and I was worried about being waived. I joined the national team for the Gold Cup and for the first game I didn’t play and I was totally pissed. Then I came on in the second game against Panama and I scored (a last minute equaliser).