What’s next for the Soca Warriors?
I suppose that the answer to that question is more complicated than losing a football match or even a regional tournament.
Our current ranking position of 83 tells its own story and being last in the Hexagon could relate to the status of the game at this juncture.
This brings to the table the opportunity to view matters in hindsight from as long as the appointment of former national coach Stephen Hart through to the victory over the USA by Dennis Lawrence and his squad. Starting from the beginning would be the work of Hart for the period that he was employed until he was replaced.
Some stability was brought to the national programme vis a vis team preparation and to a certain extent, communication with the foreign-based players, which was actually the ideal way to jump start his programme.
Knowing Stephen for many years during his career as a coach attached in different capacities for the Canadian national teams, I understood the former national Midfielder’s approach which bears similarity to the Canadian Pattern regarding local and foreign-based players.
However, as we walked along the road of challengers, a number of unforeseen problems began to show themselves coming from unexpected directions.
Firstly, the improper communication which existed between the T&T Football Association (TTFA) and the coaching staff which appeared to divide the players into different directions started casually affecting the smooth running of sessions, even when the selection process was said to be complicated with issues that had nothing to do with the game itself.When things appeared to be corrected and the team began to appear to be heading in the right direction, coach Stephen worked hard at trying to find the players with the right attitude as opposed to be prima donnas, an issue which most coaches undergo from time to time.
The fans were becoming more interested as the team was appearing to be good competitors in the regional setting.
However, a terrible start to the Hex started to scare the TTFA and they went for a change in coach, without even reviewing the progress that the team had made prior to the sudden losses.
Enter a new coach Tom Saintfiet, a Belgian whose claim to fame had nothing in his portfolio. His accepted contract was the joke of the century when he admitted that if he failed to win the next two matches in the Hex, he will be fired. So said, so done.
The selection of Dennis brought satisfaction as the former national defender had been under coach Roberto Martinez with Everton FC. Although his coaching certification was short of what is expected for national teams, his player’s experience plus his learning from high profile club coaches, got him the job.
Honestly, success for Dennis was far-fetched, especially after he defeated Panama in the early stages and fought Mexico down to the wire of a tough defeat.
Naturally, despite some impressive portions of the matches, it was clear that Dennis was short of some tactical adjustments and he was fast beginning to learn about player behaviour.
It must be recorded that he had done well in his analyses of some of the players whose commitments were far from what was expected. He made what appeared to be drastic changes, but the transition from mediocre turned into progressive and a route to better results. USA was his huge payday and that was enough to give him the chance to continue the job and prove his real test between now and the next Gold Cup.
A one year match schedule programme will be a key factor, even before Dennis documents his principled choice regarding the process for selecting our national teams. On completion of the above we shall wish to see the trail in search of success, the improved choice of his coaching assistants and most of all, his constant search of players from every part of the country.
Finally, it is necessary for coach Dennis to prove his worth by the quality of his team’s preparation, his analyses of previous matches by showing deficiencies using videos of each match and methods of improvement.
The onus of a coach is to show that his methodology, organisation and creation of major features for success within his teams. That is crucial for the longevity of his profession.