‘Its an open door for all players...’
Head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s football team Dennis Lawrence has explained his policy of inclusiveness when it comes to player selection, by stating quite clearly: “The idea is that every player with a Trinidad and Tobago passport is eligible for selection in my view.”
That statement comes after Lawrence turned some heads with the selection his provisional 25-member squad to prepare for T&T’s July 26 international friendly date away to Ecuador. Included in his training squad are Poland-based professional Keon Daniel who was a no-show for several training camps and competitions under previous coaches Stephen Hart and Hudson Charles. As a result the Tobago-born Daniel has not played a single international for T&T since July 15 2013. Lawrence explained that he invited Daniel on the request of the player’s agent who notified him that the player who is now a free agent, was back at home in T&T on vacation.
Lawrence said: “Keon has been in Poland for the last three years and he’s been playing in a number of different positions. Just like I did with Kwesi Weston when we were going to Denver when I was informed Kwesi was at home on vacation and I invited him to train to have a look, I’ve done the same thing with Keon. If Keon shows me this week that he is capable and he’s ready, he’s going to be like every other player, fighting for a place on the plane to go to Ecuador.”
Also among Lawrence’s selection is 31-year-old FC Santa Rosa forward Keron Clarke who has never played at national level but is the top scorer so far in this season’s T&T Super League, T&T’s second tier of club football. 16-year-old W Connection midfielder, Isaiah Hudson heads a list of younger but similarly inexperienced players such as Taryk Sampson and Shane Sandy. Lawrence justified those picks as well.
“We’ll talk about Isaiah first. Our U-20 players went to the Caribbean tournament under Brian Williams and since we didn’t qualify further, they’ve been inactive. So the idea now is to integrate the players who are under the age of 23 closer to the senior team because we can’t afford to let them go three or four years without being in the national set up. My idea is to bring them in so when the time comes to be involved, they have a better concept of what we want to do.”
The former assistant coach at Everton F.C in England added, “In terms of Keron Clarke, one thing about the boy that I know for sure is that he know’s how to finish, he’s a natural goalscorer. In most cases the top league is the league where the best players play but you do find the rare ones that play at another level that might be able to cope. I’ve got my questions in my head about physicality because the work in the Super League is different. But I thought to myself the only way I can answer these questions is this Ecuador friendly. So it’s an open door for all players.”
Like Daniel, Hudson comes into the head coach’s plans with a serious cloud over his head regarding his dedication after he allegedly abandoned his national under 20 team-mates at last October’s Caribbean Cup tournament at the request of his father who insisted that his son was injured, contrary to the argument of head coach Williams.
“Whatever has happened to Keon and whatever has happened with Isaiah did not happen with me. Everybody knows my policy is that we need to respect each other, we need to maintain discipline throughout and as long as they can conform to what I am asking and to what I think is the right thing then we wouldn’t have a problem.”
Lawrence noted that it was important for the local based players to grasp the opportunity being given to them in this upcoming match against Ecuador by working hard and having belief in themselves.
He stated that he was satisfied with the way the players had responded in the team’s first session on Monday.
Daniel in the Lawrence den; T&T passport enough to get you a chance, says Warriors coach
By R.Walcott (Wired868).
In answer to the summons of National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence, out of the wilderness comes Keon Daniel, who last represented Trinidad and Tobago at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013.
Addressing the media before taking his team through their paces at the Larry Gomes Stadium yesterday, Lawrence explained his decision to call up the enigmatic talent this way: “Every player that has a Trinidad and Tobago passport is available for selection in my view.”
The 30-year-old Daniel, the former Philadelphia Union man who has a total of 59 caps for his country, has had stints with Polish clubs Miedz Legnica and Flota Swinoujscie since his last game in national colours. And Lawrence who, since succeeding Belgian Tom Saintfiet as head coach earlier this year, has demonstrated a willingness to eschew the orthodox, did not hesitate to invite Daniel to the training camp after the player’s agent informed him that he was currently in the country on vacation.
“Keon has been in Poland for the last three years and he’s been playing a number of different positions,” Lawrence explained. “If Keon shows me this week that he’s capable and ready, then he’s going to be like any other player fighting for a place to go on the plane to Ecuador.”
On 8 June, the Warriors played a 3-4-2-1 system away to the US in World Cup qualification and then, five days later, Lawrence fielded seven Pro League players away to Costa Rica. Selecting Daniel for Ecuador would hardly be a shock.
Daniel’s last goal in red, white and black came against El Salvador in the Gold Cup in 2013, a tournament which Trinidad and Tobago missed out on this year. In contrast, all five of the Warriors’ opponents in the CONCACAF Hex are still involved in this year’s edition of the annual tournament, which is now in the quarter-final stage.
“It would have been a great benefit for us to go in the Gold Cup,” conceded the former Swansea and Wrexham player, trying hard not to focus too much on the empty half of the glass, “I think it would have added value to our preparations.”
“But the benefit I have taken out of it,” he makes a quick switch to the full half, “is that at least the players are actively playing in the Pro League and we have managed to acquire this friendly against Ecuador, which is very good of the TTFA…”
To supplement the provisional squad of mainly locally-based Pro League players, Lawrence has invited three overseas-based players, in Jomal Williams, who is yet to arrive from Mexico, Carlyle Mitchell and Willis Plaza. And he stressed that, with at least one more friendly coming, with luck, in August, only hard work is going to help bridge the gap between the locals and the overseas-based players.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game because everybody knows Ecuador is a top team in the South American continent […]. But it’s going to be a great test for the boys. We need this sort of exposure so I’m delighted.”
Two players who will be striving to show Lawrence their worth over the course of the next week are W Connection’s Isaiah Hudson and FC Santa Rosa’s Keron Clarke. The attacking duo, at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their careers, received surprise call-ups to the provisional squad.
Hudson is 16 years old and represented this country at Under-17 and Under-20 level within the last year. At 31, almost twice the teenager’s age, Clarke has had a journeyman career with stints at WASA FC and Maloney FC in the lower leagues.
But both men will have at least one thing in common: an aspiration first to earn a place in the squad for the Ecuador friendly and then to seal it for what lies beyond.
“I’m off to a flyer right now,” Clarke said to the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) media after getting his national call-up. “The goals are coming and hopefully the form will overflow into the national team stint.”
Lawrence is well aware of the challenges involved in making the jump from the lower leagues to the international level but he is also acutely aware of one valuable quality the TTSL sharpshooter possesses.
“I have been going to the Super League and one thing I know about the boy for sure is that he can finish and he’s a natural goal-scorer,” Lawrence said. “I’ve got a lot of questions in my head in terms of physicality […] but then I thought to myself the only way I can answer these questions is through the Ecuador friendly.”
The robust and hard-working Clarke has scored seven goals in the TTSL One season so far, second only to Guaya’s Carlon “Judgement” Hughes, who leads the scoring charts with eight. And the door may well be open, Lawrence let it be known, for “Judgement” and other TTSL in the local leagues.
“I’ve got a concept that if you are good enough—in most cases the League is the league the best players are in—and we do find rare ones that play in another level so it’s an open door for all players.”
The statement is certain to provide encouragement to several TTSL players but Lawrence also threw a bone at the younger players, noting that Hudson’s inclusion was part of a wider nurturing process for players who come through the youth ranks.
“What I have assessed since being in the job is that the Under-20 players who played in the CONCACAF tournament under coach Brian Williams have been inactive since we didn’t qualify,” Lawrence revealed. “The idea is to integrate the players who are below the age of 23 closer to the senior team […] so that when the time comes and they are ready to be involved in the senior team, they will have a better concept of what we want to do.”
And actions speaking as loudly as words, included in the group that trained today were, apart from Hudson, his former National Under-20 teammates Taryk Sampson and Shane Sandy as well as goalkeeper Jabari Brice.
Hudson and Daniel have both had disciplinary issues at junior and senior level respectively. So what does Lawrence have to say on that?
“What I would say is that whatever has happened to Keon and Isaiah has not happened with me,” he responded. “I think everybody knows my policy: we need to respect each other and we need to maintain our discipline throughout…”
And the issue of discipline led in a straight line to versatile flanker Cordell Cato, who has been a vital part of the World Cup campaign so far. He started in all four qualifiers in the Hex before crossing the disciplinary line and being released from the team camp prior to the qualifier against the US on 8 June. Lawrence admitted that he has not spoken to the Carenage speedster since that incident.
If Cato is not in Lawrence’s plans for the immediate future, players like Sean De Silva, who is heading back home after trials in Europe, Nathan Lewis, who featured in the last two games, Tyrone Charles and Williams (J) are likely to be the ones battling for a spot on the right flank in the crucial qualifiers against Honduras and Panama on 1 and 5 September respectively.
Unless Lawrence pulls some other surprise(s) out of the hat before then.
Lawrence: Daniel, Hudson given chance to prove themselves.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).
MIDFIELDERS Keon Daniel and Isaiah Hudson, two players who have chequered careers with various national teams, will be given the chance to prove themselves to national men’s coach Dennis Lawrence, as he expands his talent pool ahead of the forthcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in September.
Lawrence was speaking at a media briefing yesterday morning at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Arima.
The national men’s team, consisting mostly local-based players are currently in training ahead of a friendly international, away to Ecuador, on July 26.
Daniel, who is currently a free agent has not earned a national call-up since November 2013, when he declined an offer from then men’s coach Stephen Hart to join the squad for a friendly international away to Jamaica.
Hudson, on the other hand, was left out of the T&T team for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica after a fall-out with coach Brian Williams, during the 2016 Caribbean Cup in Curacao.
Lawrence, the ex-national defender, pointed out, “Whatever has happened to Keon and whatever has happened to Isaiah has not happened with me.
“Everybody knows my policy that we need to respect each other, we need to maintain our discipline throughout. And as long as they can conform to what I am asking and what I think is the right thing, then we wouldn’t have a problem.” Referring to the enigmatic Daniel, Lawrence noted, “(Daniel’s) agent contacted me.
We know that he was home on vacation so I invited him to be part of the training sessions so I can assess him and see how he is.” He added, “Every player that has a Trinidad and Tobago passport is available for selection in my view.
Keon has been in Poland for the last three years. He’s been playing in a number of different positions. If Keon shows me this week that he’s capable and he’s ready, he’s going to be, like every other player, fighting for a place to go on the plane to go to Ecuador.”
About the Hudson selection, Lawrence said, “Since (the Under-20 Championships), they’ve not been involved in (a) national set-up. The idea now is to try and integrate the players that are below the age of 23 closer to the senior team.
“My idea is to bring them in so they have an idea,” he continued. “So when the time comes, and it’s time to be involved with the senior team, they’ll have a better concept of what we want to do.” Another shock call up was FC Santa Rosa striker Keron Clarke, the lone non-Pro League player among the local- based bunch.
“I’ve been going to the Super League,” said Lawrence.
“One thing I know about the boy is that he knows how to finish. He’s a natural goalscorer.
I’ve got questions in my head in terms of physicality because it’s (a different level) in the Super League. But the only way I can answer these questions is (with) the Ecuador friendly.
“It’s a position on the pitch that we need to improve on....the goalscoring aspect,” added the T&T coach. “The opportunity has come. We need to give him a try and this is the best place to do it.
And I hope that the boy does well.” Lawrence noted, “The top leagues are always the place that the best players play in. You do find the rare ones that play at a level that might be able to cope. So it’s an open door for all players.” About the make-up of the training squad, Lawrence said, “The main focus is the group that we have, mainly the Pro League players.
“We were lucky to acquire the services of (Indian-based duo) Willis Plaza (and) Carlyle Mitchell, (and Mexico- based) Jomal Williams who will join the group.
“Those are the only foreign-based players that we have,” he added.
Concerning the Ecuador match, Lawrence said, “It’s going to be a very difficult game. Ecuador is a top team in the South American (region).
But it’s going to be a great test for the boys.
They need these sort of exposure.” Trinidad and Tobago are the only team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup CONCACAF Zone Final Round Qualifiers who are not participating at the current CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
“It would have been a great benefit for us if we were in the Gold Cup,” Lawrence admitted.
“I think it would have been added value to our preparations.
But the benefit that I’ve took out of it is that at least the players are actively playing in the Pro League. We’ve managed to acquire this friendly against Ecuador and we’re trying to see how we can be more prepared for the Honduras game.”