“(Stephen Hart) is a coach who knows what he wants and he goes out and selects the exact players (with the specific characteristics he needs) to build his team,” said Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup attacker Cornell Glen. “There are coaches that select players who are in-form and work around that. But he wants this (specific characteristic for his squad) and he selects his players in order to fit within that system.”
Wired868: So can you tell us about your professional career?
Cornell Glen: I have played in Trinidad, Portugal, United States, India and I spent three months in Vietnam. That was a rough three months.
I think the strength of the Trinidad league is the aggression. It is difficult to play (in the Pro League). You have to be tough physically to play here (with) the tackles and all of that.
In India, it is not as difficult in terms of aggression. But it is difficult because they are technically good Indian players and they are bringing in a lot of good foreign players. And there is a lot at stake for the clubs and for the players.
It is not like Trinidad where you lose a game and you go home and forget about it and come back the next day (as if nothing happened). When you lose a game (in India), the owners are pissed off and stakeholders are pissed off. There is a lot more pressure on you as a player.
Also the schedule itself (is difficult) because India is such a big place. Sometimes you have to travel like 15 or 16 hours to a game, so it is really really demanding on the body physically.
Wired868: Why do you say Vietnam was rough?
Glen: I spent three months there at Song Lam Nghe. I will have to give you that story another time. (He laughs).
Wired868: And the MLS?
Glen: The problem I had in the US was that injuries came at a really bad time for me. The worst one was the (2006) World Cup injury. I think if I had gone back to the LA Galaxy in the form I was in, I would probably have scored a lot of goals and it would have helped my career in the MLS a lot.
It is a really tough league. Travelling again is really demanding because there are five or six hour flights to games and the training sessions are really intense.
Also teams sit down and analyse everything and they are tactically and technically on point. Opponents know your strengths and weaknesses going into the game, so it is difficult to beat defenders. It is a hard league to play in.
Wired868: Trinidad and Tobago players seemed to excel in the MLS before like Stern John, Ansil Elcock, Avery John, Scott Sealy, Evans Wise… Joevin Jones is doing well but why are our players not in demand there anymore?
Glen: It is a really demanding league, physically and mentally, and there is a lot missing in our game (in that sense). The physical aspect (of the game) in the MLS and here is different. Here, it is the tackling but there they are physically strong on the ball.
They look at the technical side of the game as well in terms of your technique and positioning. If we don’t get better coaches here to help the players with that we will always have the problem in (getting players to) the top European and US leagues.
But I think it is also a matter of how bad you want it. I think as a youth, I wanted it really badly and that is what made me survive. I was away from my family and my young kids and I was missing home but I knew I had to stick it out. I had no other option but to stick it out to try and help my family.
Now, you see a lot of players going on trials and then crying to come back home. I think that drive and hunger is missing today.
Wired868: What was it like in Portugal?
Glen: I actually loved it there. (Our team played) a nice, fast passing game. I was playing in the second division and my goal was to move up and have two or three seasons there and then try to make it to the England Premier Division…
I learned a lot in Portugal because it was the first time that I was playing in a league with so many different styles of football. You had teams playing long balls and some with short passes and different paces of the game. So I learnt to adapt as fast as possible.
Wired868: What was responsible for shaping you into the player you became?
Glen: I tried to learn as much as possible from every coach I played under. No matter how bad a coach is you can still learn something, even if it is what not to do. (He laughs).
I also tried to work on my weaknesses. Growing up, one of my biggest weaknesses was playing with my back to the goal. So, I used to spend hours working on that.
Wired868: How did you work on that?
Glen: Well, I focused a lot on it in practise and would spend extra time trying to improve my hold up play against defenders. I would just pay attention to that as much as I could because I knew it was my weakness. I also worked on my upper body strength and my core strength a lot and I spent a lot of money on personal trainers to get fit and get strong, even while I was playing in Trinidad.
A lot of players probably go to the gym but to get specific work from trainers, a lot of them don’t do that. I would personally recommend Gregory Seale. He helped me with a lot of strength work, core stability, balance and so on… The first time I worked with him was when Russell (Latapy) was coach in 2009 or 2010 and we kept in touch (ever since).
(Seale) did a lot of stuff that was new to the players and we laughed at it because there were a lot of weird looking actions. But when we started doing it on a regular basis and seeing the results and feeling it, you start realising it is stuff you really need as a football player.
Over the years, the science of football has changed drastically. So to stick with the old school stuff like sit ups and so on just isn’t enough.
Wired868: You have spoken a lot about your admiration for (ex-Real Madrid and Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup coach) Leo Beenhakker. Can you go over what you saw as the strengths and weaknesses of your other former coaches?
Glen: I think my first real coach was the late Arthur “Jap” Brown (with the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team and Futgof). He was a serious disciplinarian. It was hard to play under him because he was really strict. He was a school teacher as well. I got in trouble a lot for coming late, jersey out of pants… I got bouffed all the time. But he knew his football and he kept you in line.
He broke it down for you to understand the game. He taught me how to run off the ball. That was one of the most important things (I learned from him). And we did a lot of technical work under him.
Wired868: And what about (then National Under-20 coach) Peter Granville?
Glen: I think Peter was a good coach. But I can’t remember much about playing for him because that team had so many great players like Nigel Pierre and Jason Scotland. So I was on the bench most of the times. But he is a good coach.
Wired868: And Terry Fenwick at San Juan Jabloteh?
Glen: I didn’t learn anything from Fenwick. (He laughs). Fenwick taught me so much. He is just a class act. People are always coming down on Terry because of his attitude and what not but he is definitely one of the best coaches I’ve played under.
The bad is probably his temper. Sometimes he loses it and gets too emotional but that is just his love and passion for the game. The good is that he fights for his players. He is a coach that makes you want to die for him on the field.
Terry is one of those coaches who can get you sharp and fit and get the best out of any of his players. Thinking about it he is just an all-round good coach. Sometimes I ask myself why is he not coaching in a better league abroad. But he is a really good coach.
Wired868: And Ricky Hill at Jabloteh?
Glen: Ricky is a tactician. He is a good coach and a smooth guy. I think his weakness is that he is a bit too quiet and soft on players. He was a bit lenient on players who were playing in minor leagues and so on. But he is one of the smartest coaches I ever played with.
Wired868: And what coaches stood out for you in the MLS?
Glen: I played under Bob Bradley in my first season in the MLS at (New York/New Jersey) MetroStars. The bad is that you can’t get to read him; you never know if he is happy or angry or sad. He has no facial expressions and there are no emotions at all that come out of Bradley. But the good bit is he is a really good coach tactically and I really enjoyed working under him.
I had so many coaches at Columbus, so it is hard to remember much about anyone. I had (Frank) Yallop at LA Galaxy and then at San Jose (Earthquakes). He is a really good coach and big on fitness. I hate to run and he is big on the long runs. (He laughs). But he is a good tactical coach and a really down to earth guy. I remember the first time we saw him get angry in the dressing room and everybody was so surprised. He is one of those guys who is always smiling and outgoing and calm.
Wired868: What do you think works in terms of how a coach interacts with his players? Is it better to be more friendly or more distant?
Glen: It depends on the situation. Even Terry (Fenwick) who I saw lose it a lot of times in the dressing room; but there were times when we lost and he would just leave the dressing room and go home without saying a word.
You have to know your players. You can’t be up under them and pressure them too much. You have to know when to give them space because we are all humans and we all make mistakes…
(Leo) Beenhakker is one of the best coaches at doing that. He is a great man manager. He knows when to get under your skin and when to shout at you or when to pull you aside and have that private discussion with you. It is really hard to find a weakness in Beenhakker. He is a great man manager and tactically he is a genius.
Wired868: And (ex-Holland World Cup defender and Trinidad and Tobago coach) Wim Rijsbergen?
Glen: I didn’t play under him. I was recovering from the knee injury (suffered at the 2006 World Cup).
Wired868: What about (ex-Colombia World Cup coach and former South America Coach of the Year) Francisco Maturana?
Glen: I think the bad thing about Maturana is that he was he not as demanding and commanding as he should have been. I think he was being controlled by people behind the scenes (at the TTFF) and I don’t think he had the opportunity to do what he really wanted.
A big downside as well was he couldn’t speak English. We would get lost with the translator some times and we couldn’t understand him. When Filippo (Alario) came in late (to act as translator), we finally understood some of the things he was trying to get over to us better. We realised that this guy could really coach. But by then it was too late for him because we went to the Caribbean Cup and we didn’t show up and that was that.
Maybe he should have gotten a year or two more. They fired him way too quickly. I think he is a great coach but he didn’t a chance to express himself with the (Trinidad and Tobago) National Team. His hands were tied.
Wired868: Why do you say he was a great coach?
Glen: There was this one time very early after he came in when he put us to sit down and player by player he was breaking down our strengths and weaknesses. To us, he was like a teacher. He was teaching us the game.
Wired868: What did Maturana say about your game?
Glen: He said i was like a thief in the night. I will never forget that. (He laughs). He said: One minute, you are here, the next minute you are there. And the next minute you don’t see him. And the next minute, he scores…
Wired868: And what about Russell Latapy?
Glen: I think Latas’ problem was he took the National Team way too early in his career. I think he wasn’t ready for it. He should have coached at a higher level for a number of years before he took the job… I think he was pressured into making selections because he was a young coach. Russell could probably be a great coach with the National Team one of these days but he needs that experience.
The plus with him is he is a genius on the field and you can learn so much from the guy whether you are an attacker or a defender. He teaches you to have confidence on the ball.
Wired868: What about (former Trinidad and Tobago head coach and present assistant coach) Hutson “Barber” Charles?
Glen: I think he has the potential to be a good coach but I think he has to (work) under some good coaches first. He was willing to learn and listen. But one of his problems is you can’t be a yes man as a coach. You have to have an opinion and be able to get your opinion across.
I think he was too quiet as a coach… He knows the game because he played at a high level a lot. But one of his weaknesses is getting his point across to the team.
Wired868: And Angus Eve at North East Stars?
Glen: I think Angus (Eve) has the potential to be one of the best coaches in Trinidad in the next few years, given the opportunity and the right resources. I think Angus can be a force to be reckoned with. In terms of weaknesses, I think he experiments too much. He is always changing his squad and trying a lot of crazy stuff. But he knows the game.
Some of the best training sessions I have had as a professional player were under Angus… It is always easy for him to bring stuff across to the players and I think tactically he is a really intelligent coach. He can break the game down and break teams down player for player.
He knows what he wants, how he wants it, where he is going to attack, where we are going to defend, how we are going to defend. Those are the kinds of things that you hardly see from local coaches and that is what football is about.
Football is simple. It is how you are going to get behind the other team’s defence and score goals and how you are going to stop them from scoring goals. He knows how to do that.
Wired868: And current national head coach Stephen Hart?
Glen: Hart is an average coach. He is a coach who knows what he wants and he goes out and selects the exact players (with the specific characteristics he needs) to build his team. There are coaches that select players who are in-form and work around that. But he wants this (specific characteristic for his squad) and he selects his players in order to fit within that system.
Tactically, he has an idea of what he is doing and how he wants to go about doing it. In terms of weaknesses, I think his weakness is the people around him. The assistant coaches around Hart right now are of absolutely no help to him. He needs more experience under him.
(Hart has not selected Glen since the 2013 Gold Cup, although the striker insists he has not retired from international football).
Wired868: There have been regular complaints about the fitness levels of the Pro League players when they join national training camps. Do you think there is a problem there?
Glen: Yes. In the Pro League, players have nothing to lose. You can lose a match and go home and it is not a problem. When you play abroad and they are paying you so much money, then you have to be fit otherwise you won’t play and you will eventually lose your contract. That is the big difference between the Pro League and playing abroad.
I always hated to be unfit. It is the worst feeling ever. So I used to do my own personal training after practise. That is where the professionalism comes in. But then I was exposed to it and I knew what it is like abroad.
Until the local players understand that we will continue to have a problem with fitness. And until the League gives you something to play for and something to push and drive the players, you will continue to have that problem.
Wired868: Were there players who would follow your example of extra training at North East Stars?
Glen: There were a few young players who put in extra work after practise… There are always a few who want to go outside and want to make it and you have to have that drive and passion to do that. It is not only about skill and ability… Sometimes clubs just want to see how bad you want it and how much you want to fit into that club. Sometimes, they sign you because of your aura and how you carry about yourself. It is less about football these days and more about business and marketing.
Wired868: So you are faced with a Europe-based player who isn’t playing regularly and a Pro League player who might not be pushing himself: how difficult is that call for a coach?
Glen: That is why i made a reference to a young Russell Latapy being pressured to pick certain players.
Wired868: So you think it is a matter of the coach being strong and not the standard of league the player is competing in?
Glen: Beenhakker played Aurtis Whitley in front of a lot of players who were playing abroad and Aurtis was playing with San Juan Jabloteh. That is why we need coaches with balls to step up and say if you are not playing you are not going to make the national team. Aurtis was a regular player on the national team because he was fit and in-form.
Wired868: What do you think about the state of the Pro League?
Glen: The Pro League needs a revamp. It needs more advertising (and) more money into the clubs to pay the players better and new faces to help market the League a lot more and get the League into communities. If you are passing every day and you are seeing (Pro League) billboards or you turn on the tv and see advertisements and it is stuck in your head constantly, you will want to come and see the games.
We need to advertise the football and not advertise the lime. Right now, they advertise the lime and they tell people to bring their cooler and all that nonsense. We need to push the football and draw more interest into the football. When that happens and they start to pump more money into the football, there will be more at stake for the players.
(When) you pay a player (TT)$2,000 or (TT)$3,000 a month, how much can you get from the player? I was part of the players association and we went around and asked people to join. But you had club owners and coaches and so on at the time threatening players to fire them if they joined us then. I don’t know what is happening (to the players association) now.
Wired868: And what about the health of the national team?
Glen: I think we have an abundance of (talented) players. But until we get more players playing regularly with their respective clubs, I don’t think our chances would be great in qualifying for a World Cup. That was a problem throughout the years that players would come back unfit (to play)…
Once we have 10 or 11 guys who are consistently playing for their clubs then, with the talent we have right now, I think we have a chance qualifying for the World Cup.
Wired868: What do you think about the young strikers coming through? Are there any that caught your eye?
Glen: I have always liked (W Connection attacker) Shahdon (Winchester). He is a really good player, although I haven’t seen him play for a bit.
Wired868: Do you think he works hard enough for his team?
Glen: For me, it isn’t how hard he works but rather if he gives you what you want or not. Do you want a striker to work hard or do you want a striker to put the ball in the back of the net?
Some coaches like strikers to run and tackle and work hard and all of that. I prefer a striker who gets the ball and puts it in the back of the net and, when we don’t have the ball, you rest and save your energy.
Wired868: What advice would you give to young strikers like Shahdon Winchester?
Glen: Keep scoring goals. That is your job. Once you keep scoring goals, they can’t say you are not doing your job and it keeps your name in the coach’s head regularly so they can’t say they are not hearing about you. Keep scoring goals and keep playing.
Wired868: Do you have any regrets looking back at your career?
Glen: Probably my only regret is not taking seriously back then a lot of things that I know now. I might have prevented a lot of injuries with the strength work and stuff we were talking about earlier. As a youth, you think you are fit and you don’t need to do that. But that could have saved me a lot of injuries.
Otherwise, I think I am satisfied. My career could have gone in a much better direction and there were a lot of injuries at the wrong time that hampered my career. But I think God wanted things to happen (this way) and I am definitely satisfied with the way things have gone.
All in all, I cannot complain. I am loving it in India and I am in my third season now. I hope I can stay for another two or three years and then get into the coaching side of things.
Wired868: What is it like in India?
Glen: India is the closest I’ve been to home in anywhere I have been across the world. The culture is a lot more similar to home and the people are free-spirited, open and friendly. The diversity of the place is what I really love about the country… There are so many different races and cultures and languages. You have something like 300 languages and thousands of different tribes and all of that. It is a beautiful thing that you have to experience yourself to understand it.
Wired868: Is your family with you in India? Have they stayed with you at any club?
Glen: No, my family is not here. My family used to visit when I was in the States but they never lived with me. I am single but I have two kids. Zara-Marie who is seven and Darnell who is 11. Zara-Marie is a gymnast and she is doing well in her gymnastics. The boy is into football. Both are going to (school at) Newtown.
Wired868: How would you like to be remembered?
Glen: I would just like to be remembered as someone who loved doing what he did. I want to be remembered as free spirited and someone who always spoke his mind on what was affecting me at the time. I am never someone to sell out. I am always there to support the younger players and speak out for the younger players.
As a player, I hope I did enough to be remembered as one of the better strikers who played for the (Trinidad and Tobago) National Team. I really thought I would have the opportunity to score more goals but coach Hart decided to retire me. So…
I haven’t retired. I will continue to play and do my best wherever I am playing. I am not expecting a call but if it comes, I hope I am fit and ready to represent the national team. Once the conditions are right…