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Tue, Oct

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Walter Winterbottom, a former England international football coach in the early 1960s, loved to discuss the science of tactics with his players and team talks could entail lengthy soliloquies on a variety of elaborate passing moves involving several players.


But the conclusion of his speech, according to then player and future England coach Bobby Robson, rarely changed.

"At the end of all that," he said, "Jimmy (Greaves) will score a goal."

Greaves, a typically self-assured striker, embraced the responsibility without feigning modesty.

"Do you want me to score with my left foot or my right?" he asked his coach.

It is hard to believe that a similar relationship does not exist between Trinidad and Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker and his prolific striker, Stern John.

Or that the national players, when searching the dressing room for their likely source of goals, do not let their eyes linger on John.

A former Real Madrid and Ajax boss, Beenhakker could surely dress up Trinidad and Tobago's approach with loads of tactical jargon. But the end result is thus: If Aurtis Whitley and Chris Birchall close down space for the opposition's midfield and the back four and goalkeeper are solid behind them, and Dwight Yorke, Carlos Edwards and Russell Latapy help the team keep possession long enough for the right opening to present itself John will probably sneak us a goal.

Beenhakker's preference for a formation with just one recognisable forward is testimony to his faith in the England-based striker.

John's returns of six goals-from a team total of eight-in seven qualifying matches under the Dutch-born coach showed that the ploy works. And his country is desperate for an encore on November 12 and 16 when Trinidad and Tobago face Bahrain in a Play-Off contest for a 2006 World Cup qualifying spot.

Bahrain's chances for success hinge on cutting off John's supply lines.

Does Beenhakker have a plausible 'Plan B'?

Hopefully, Trinidad and Tobago fans would not need to find out, although one is left slightly unnerved if too much attention is paid to John's career in England's League Championship division at present.

On Saturday, for the second successive week, John did not win even a spot among the substitutes at Derby County. And, for the fifth consecutive week, Derby failed to win.

To date this season, John played six times for employers, Coventry City, and seven times for Derby, who took him on loan with a promise to purchase in January. He has not scored a goal for either party and his contributions were jeered by fans of both clubs this year.

He is desperate to prove them wrong.

In that regard, John epitomises the spirit of a squad of largely undervalued exports.

Yorke may be settled in Australia but he surely feels that he had more to offer the English Premier League, where he won silverware with three of his four clubs-Aston Villa, Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers-before being released by Birmingham City in May.

Goalkeeper Kelvin Jack and striker Jason Scotland must think themselves better than the Scottish First Division; Latapy would feel he merits a place among the globe's best players; while Whitley and Cyd Gray are desperate to prove their mettle at a level higher than the T&T Pro League.

Beenhakker, who failed to take a talented Dutch team past the World Cup second round in 1990 and was axed by the Saudi Arabian FA after steering their outfit to the 1994 tournament, did not choose Trinidad and Tobago for the nights out either.

Intertwined in their personal ambitions is a desire to make their family and loved ones proud and, as professionals, to play to win.

It makes a potent package of talent and temperament and Bahrain are guaranteed a testing encounter.

John represents our cutting edge. With 18 World Cup qualifying goals, he is already in virgin territory for a Trinidad and Tobago international.

Whatever his returns in the play-offs, John's place in local football history is assured. But, if he scores in either leg, he can take his teammates with him.

He might not be Beenhakker's best player but the team might not survive two off-colour performances from the 29-year-old striker.

As late reggae star Peter Tosh sang, 'Johnny be good'.

Trinidad and Tobago's present World Cup dreams depend on it.