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20
Fri, Oct

Typography

Of late, I have re-discovered a favoured pastime--building jigsaw puzzles.

Through advanced technology, I have been revisiting my youth through the computer, building puzzles electronically, but much in the same way I used to in days gone by.

The thing with jigsaws, is that they can really challenge you. The more complex the scene, the more your powers of concentration need to be sharp.

You need patience–sometimes loads of it--and a good method if the thing is not to drive you to distraction. Most of all perhaps, you need time.

Take right now. I have been working on a particular puzzle on and off for more than a week. Haven't got very far. It's a football scene. But so much is happening in the picture, in so much colour, that it is taking extra work to make progress.

In a sense then, Russell Latapy and I are in the same predicament.

Like me, the national senior team coach has to fit a lot of pieces together. But the matching of them is far from straightforward.

It will take a certain philosophy, method and patience to be able to put together a squad capable of, in the first instance, winning the Digicel Caribbean Cup and then being able to challenge for a 2014 World Cup spot.

So far, progress on Latas' "puzzle" has been slow. Modest results have drawn loaded comment from the Minister of Sport. There has been a change of method, too.

Having been prepared to use a locally-based squad in the build-up to the Cup, Latapy suddenly added four United States-based pros--Cornell Glen, Keon Daniel, Julius James and Yohance Marshall--for the return friendly in Jamaica.

Why the change now?

Hear the coach in his last interview with the local media before last week's game with the Reggae Boyz.

"What encouraged that was results basically. We weren't getting results. We tried to give the local players the opportunity to step forward. Unfortunately, some of them didn't...that is what prompted the return to invite some of the foreign players," Latapy said.

And referring to discussions he had with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation and Sports Minister Anil Roberts, Latapy added: "Apparently, from what was said, that (the Digicel Cup) is what I will be judged on, so my focus is the Digicel Cup, and I am working towards that. I would much prefer to peak around the Digicel Cup time, and not now."

The need, therefore, for the national coach to fit the pieces of his team together has become more urgent. But time is against Latas.

His predicament was somewhere in the back of my mind when I took in the First Citizens Cup match between Defence Force and Ma Pau FC on Friday evening.

Actually, my focus was to watch Devon Jorsling.

My contact with him went back ten years to the Secondary Schools Football League national Big Four final in 2000.

Back then, he was 16 going on 17 and in his final year with Malick Secondary. In the process of doing a feature, I spent the day with the Malick team ahead of the final against St Benedict's College.

Malick routed Benedict's 5-0 to win the last--to date--of their six national League titles. Devon, the captain, got a double.

Having had the opportunity to chat with him, he struck me as an ambitious young man who loved the game. He was a leader on the pitch also, a vocal fellow, but one who could score goals and also create chances for others.

Over the years, I've tried to keep track of his progress. Injuries have slowed him down. But some steady seasons in the T&T Pro League for the "Army" have earned him more playing time in the national side.

Friday, after a relatively quiet game in Jamaica for Trinidad and Tobago, he was back in yellow and blue.

But this was another match where not too much happened for the striker.

Mind you, he was on the mark with his in-swinging corner from the right in the 34th minute. Aklie Edwards met it well to head home the only goal of the game. But that action was about the only highlight for both Jorsling and his side.

The soldiers did what they needed to win. They closed down their opponents in midfield and defence by being quicker to the ball and not often losing their shape.

However, in truth, on the night, Ma Pau did not ask enough hard questions of the Army defence.

As a whole, neither side was stretched at the back much. Very few were the times teams got behind their opponents.

"Don't we dribble in Trinidad anymore?" I asked myself.

And where was the pace, the pep to make the opposition back back?

Had it not been for Kevon Carter's broken leg, Jorsling may have been more in the thick of things, with pacier service from the right side. But, as the lone striker, he was isolated and frustrated by the lack of service.

Time and again, there were hand gestures and words for his teammates as his Ma Pau minders comfortably dealt with balls meant for him.

It may have helped if Jorsling himself had given them more to think about by working the penalty box more. Okay, not everybody can hustle like Wayne Rooney. But sometimes when you work solo, you have to make things happen.

I'm not sure that kind of game can work for Latapy.

The coach has a tough job.

In straight football terms, there has been no lasting legacy from the Soca Warriors' 2006 World Cup experience, no smooth transition from one generation to the next.

It reminds me of what happened in West Indies cricket in the 1990s.

Not the ideal situation for a rookie coach. Orchestrating the play from midfield is not the same as managing people and getting them to play in a particular way.

So far, there is not much evidence of inspiration from the bench. It doesn't help that the coach has no players of the calibre or experience of himself or Dwight Yorke to build his side around.

So Latapy finds himself having to fit brand new pieces into the frame. Not sure that can be done by Digicel Cup time in November. But that may be all the time he gets.

I hope he does it. But this is one time Latas will really have to be a Little Magician.