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23
Mon, Oct

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If Trinidad and Tobago do get to the World Cup, it will be off Stern John's boots nearly as much as Jack Warner's pockets.


Q: So are we practically in the World Cup now then?

A: We have a good chance to get there but we haven't nailed down that spot yet. The game against Mexico has just brought us back into it. The win was great and we enjoyed the day; but now it's time to go back to the drawing board. We have two more crucial games to go.

Q: We need to take Bahrain that seriously?

A: Definitely! We need to take every game and every country seriously. It all depends on how you play on the day. You need to take home field advantage, score as much goals as possible and then go abroad and hopefully lock up shop. But Bahrain will be thinking the same way when they come to play us.

Q: It was a great game on Wednesday?

A: It was a great game for the entire team, actually. One of the best performances from a Trinidad & Tobago team. It wasn't like, three or four guys. The whole team stepped up and really played together.

Q: You still had a lot to do with the victory, scoring the two goals?

A: Well, as a striker, you get judged by the goals you score. At the end of the day, people don't care how much passes you made or who you dribble and stuff. Sometimes me and the guys argue which position is hardest.

I think a striker's is more difficult because you do get judged only by the goals you score. I think I took my chances well. Unfortunately, I missed the penalty; the keeper saved it. But you can't think about that, you have to just move on. The game is 90 minutes, not that split second. I told myself, 'well, we'll just have to dig a bit deeper'.

Q: It was amazing, coming back from a missed penalty, from one-nil down?

A: The team has been growing in strength since [national coach] Leo Beenhakker came in and since Russell [Latapy] and all the guys came back together.

We've shown more belief and character. Before this, we might have been one-nil down to Mexico and just thrown in the towel. We've always had a great team on paper. It was just a problem to get it together as a great team on the field. I think we're getting it together and have started peaking at the right time.

Q: You've got to feel good about scoring two crucial goals in two crucial matches?

A: Actually, I'm not happy because I've been under a lot of pressure the last couple of months, especially playing in Trinidad. Been getting a lot of stick and stuff. I'm one of the players who has a Trinidad & Tobago heart through and through. It was very difficult for me, I was very disappointed the way the crowd reacted [at times]. As a player, that is always at the back of your mind and that's the only way I could have silenced them: put the ball in the back of the net.

Q: Your body language in the Guatemala game seemed to say you were fed up?

A: Yeah, because I was really disappointed and hurt. The team was really doing well and the guys were working hard. You know, it's just unfortunate that you miss chances sometimes as a striker. You actually will miss more chances than you score.

Coming back to represent Trinidad & Tobago and having them reacting like that was hurtful. You know, when we [foreign-based T&T players] leave our clubs in England and so on, our managers laugh at us. They don't really recognise Trinidad. It's a joke to them: 'what you going back there for? You can't be serious'.

We want to come back and do well for our country, put it on the map-and that's what we get. It's something I always have at the back of my head, but life goes on. The qualification for the World Cup is more important than the fans. The team and especially the manager have stuck behind me and they know what I can do. So we don't have to worry about "outside".

Q: It's a sad thing to hear a national player say. What do you players want from the home crowd?

A: It's not always going to be positive stuff [on the field] but you could at least come and support. Maybe after, on radio programmes and so on, you could criticise but, when you come to the stadium, show your love and support for the players because they've come back to give their all for the country.

We're under a lot of pressure from our [foreign] managers and peer groups. Every time I come back to play for Trinidad, I lose my spot [on the foreign team]. That's been happening to me for years. Not every game we're going to play well.

If they get behind the team, that's all we ask. Obviously, you'll have your little pockets of fans who think differently. We could live with a few. When Jamaica qualified for the World Cup the whole country was behind the team.

They went to the World Cup as a nation, not as a team. I think that's what we need to do: look after our sports heroes and treasure them. I'm sure half the people in the stadium on Wednesday wouldn't even know some of the players; but if you told them about an English player, David Beckham, they'd know him.

Q: You had to have mixed feelings with the packed ground on Wednesday: 'where were they for all the other games'?

A: Exactly! And we get to expect that in Trinidad now. We know that. Where were they in the early days when we really needed them to rally round the team? We're not really complaining [now] though; we're getting the support. Hopefully, it's genuine.

We treat the team as "dem fellas" until it qualifies?

And then everybody want to jump on the bandwagon. Still, I'd like to say thanks to all the fans who were with us during the thick and thin.

Q: Could the Government have been more supportive?

A: Definitely! We all know about what's happening with Mr Warner and Mr Beenhakker. We wish the Government would put their money where their mouth is. Every time we have a function, they fail to show.

Or they say they're going to give us this or that and never do. It's very important that the Government play their part. Right now, Mr Beenhakker is on a contract for the next two games. Somebody has to step up to the plate, to see how important it is for us to qualify for the World Cup.

Q:
How important is he to that?

A: [Laughing] Massive. Very, very important. No disrespect to other past national coaches, but [at the time] when he took over the team, we had no chance of qualifying. He brought the guys to believe in themselves. One time, when I wasn't playing well, he and the assistant coach ripped into me.

He knows I could do better. If I didn't take it the right way, I'd just [steupses], "That man don't like me!" Now I'm working even harder, thanks to him and his staff. He came with a plan and set his stall out, saying this is what he wanted. Even the staff, the way they do stuff now, is totally professional.

Before, it was real amateur. He brought that professional environment. He's one of the best things to happen to our football. The way he changed players and stuff was amazing. He should stay on for the four years he says he wants to. We have the money. We should find the way.

Q: If the Minister of Sport, reading this, doesn't come up with the cash to keep Beenhakker on, should the country be angry?

A: Very angry and disappointed. If we check the last five or six years, how many coaches we changed, and we haven't had the success we've had with Beenhakker. And he's only there, what, three months now? Far less if he stayed for a next four years? You know how much plan and structure we could have?

Q: Has the private sector got behind the team enough?

A: I think they could have done a better job. Maybe they have something with Jack Warner, maybe they're waiting to see if we qualify. From a marketing point of view, make the players see they're part of something. But I'm just a player, I need to focus on the field and get to the World Cup, that's all.