Former Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup 2006 defender and Everton FC coach Dennis Lawrence will make his case to lead the Soca Warriors today, as the TTFA technical committee widened its search for the third National Senior Team head coach in three months.
Lawrence worked as assistant coach at Wigan Athletic and Everton and remains a member of Spanish coach Roberto Martinez’s backroom staff at the Belgium National Senior Team.
He joins what is believed to now be a five-man shortlist to replace Tom Saintfiet, who quit within one month of taking over from Stephen Hart. Russell Latapy, Terry Fenwick and Stuart Charles-Fevrier have already been interviewed by the technical committee while Francisco Maturana and Lawrence will have their chance today.
However, if one gauged importance on the heft of salary packages, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) might have already lost belief in the Russia 2018 World Cup campaign.
Saintfiet, whose last job was as Bangladesh National Senior Team coach, was believed to have taken over the Trinidad and Tobago without a contract and an agreement to be paid with match fees rather than a monthly salary. In contrast, Hart is understood to have earned US$22,000 a month—although he is still being owed by the TTFA.
The next Warriors coach is expected to be offered a wage somewhere between the remuneration of the two former coaches. However, Wired868 understands the local football body will spend nearly double the pay package of its new men’s coach on Women’s National Senior Team coach Carolina Morace and her staff.
Morace, a former Italy national player and ex-Canada coach, comes with an impressive CV and proven pedigree. Her contract will run until the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
The next men’s coach is unlikely to have anything like her salary or job security.
The TTFA’s decision to invest more in the leader of its women’s programme when the men’s team has historically been its biggest financial earner is especially curious with the latter team in the Hex, which is usually enough to guarantee tens of millions in sponsorship deals.
In 2006, the local football body collected well over TT$200 million dollars in revenue for qualifying for the Germany World Cup. But it does not appear that the TTFA, headed by president David John-Williams, is prepared to make a significant investment to get there on this occasion.
Regardless, the technical committee has apparently spread its net as far as possible in the search for the next men’s coach.
The Skeene-led committee has not contacted Hart, despite a plea for his reinstatement by the players and an online petition by local football fans. However, former World Cup 2006 captain and ex-Manchester United star Dwight Yorke was supposedly sounded out as well as former 2007 Under-17 World Cup coach Anton Corneal.
Yorke, who works as a football analyst in Britain, was said to be uninterested in the position at this time but promised to give motivational speeches to the squad or offer advice whenever possible.
Corneal, who now works as a FIFA technical development officer, is owed a seven-figure settlement from the TTFA for his recent spell as technical director. He was unwilling to consider any new football position unless his outstanding money was part of the discussion.
On Thursday, Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and players representative Jan-Michael Williams, who claimed to represent 23 national players, sent an email to John-Williams and vice-presidents Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis, which urged the local football executive to recall Hart.
Under Hart, Trinidad and Tobago qualified for two successive Gold Cup quarterfinals, the CONCACAF Hex for the Russia 2018 World Cup and climbed to 49th in the FIFA rankings in 2015, which was the country’s highest placing since 2012.
However, the Canada-based coach lost his job after a dip in form last year which had its nadir in successive competitive defeats to Martinique, Costa Rica and Honduras, during a three week spell between October and November.
The Martinique and Honduras losses both occurred on foreign soil.
Should the TTFA prove unwilling to reinstate Hart, the Warriors stated a preference for either Fenwick or Fevrier with former National Under-23 coach and stand-out player Angus Eve as a possible assistant coach.
Fenwick, a former England World Cup defender and Tottenham Spurs captain, won Pro League and Caribbean Cup titles at San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC while Fevrier, who is also a former T&T international coach, did likewise with W Connection.
Both are former Pro League Coach of the Year winners.
Latapy, a former Trinidad and Tobago football icon and European Champions League player with Porto, is believed to be a strong contender, despite an unimpressive earlier spell as head coach, six years ago. He has since earned his UEFA pro licence and worked as an assistant in the Scotland Premier League.
The technical committee is expected to present its own choice as head coach by the start of next week, although the board of directors will make the final decision.
Last month, the committee is believed to have given a list of four names to John-Williams. The TTFA president then whittled the list further—supposedly after phone calls to the prospective candidates—before presenting one name to the board of directors: Saintfiet.
The obscure Belgian’s stint proved to be disastrous as he lasted just one month and quit after three losses from four games against Nicaragua, Suriname and Haiti. Trinidad and Tobago football fans will hope for better luck this time.
At the moment, Morace might be the most comfortable coach in the country, as she prepares to start the Women Warriors’ 2019 World Cup bid with the security and pay package that might turn Saintfiet’s successor green with envy.