Former National Team defender Clayton Morris is to this day remembered mostly for his role as captain of the famous 1989 “Strike Squad” during the “Road to Italy” World Cup qualifying campaign.
From media interviews to motivational presentations to coaching sessions, “JB” is always referred to as the ’89 skipper and consistently asked to make comparisons to the cases of back then and now. Case in point, the recent 2-1 victory over the United States at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
But there is a particular period in Morris’ career that stands out It is one which he reflects on glowingly… the days when he played for John Donaldson Technical Institute.
After earning selection to the National Under 19 team at age 17 after lighting up the
St Ann’s and North Zone competitions with Rangers, Morris got his first opportunity to play in the Colleges League with John D. The period that stands out for him was the infamous three-match Intercol Final of 1979 which was eventually won by Fatima College.
“I was an early school drop out as by the age of 14 I had to find other ways of making ends meet due to the fact that I came from a large family of eleven siblings. I was playing in the community of St. Ann’s with Rangers and I had done enough to make it into the national youth teams and by age 17 I was on the national under 19 team. But I always had an interest in the Colleges league and I would pay to go and see Mucurapo play. That Mucurapo team includes the likes of my cousin Wendell Belgrave and I would be in awe of the excitement and the large crowds. One day I eventually told my brother that I wanted to be part of the league and my success at the time allowed me to be drafted into John D where I had the chance to play football and also do building construction. The rest is history as they say,” Morris added.
“The most memorable times for me came in the 1979 Intercol Final that was played three times. We won the first game, 2-1, at the Queen’s Park Oval but the game was ordered to be replayed after it was said that the referee played a half that was too long. I scored in that game from a corner. i then set up the equaliser in the replay which finished 3-3 and then we lost the third replay 2-1 at the Oval. It is one of those experiences in local football that I alway remember, said the former Trintoc player.
Fatima’s Anton Corneal and Morris were described as they key players of that year for both teams with the likes of Geoffrey Lake,Graeme Rodriguez and Garnet Craig also lining up for Fatima.
“The experience of the League back then propelled me to go to further international football. I had the chance to travel to Dallas, Suriname and Guyana with the under 19 national team and then the next step was the senior team. Playing in those atmospheres and being involved in fierce competition was a major help for any young player at the time who was then going on to senior team football,” Morris said.
So what about the League today? Morris believes that while there is room for growth, the league is heading in a positive direction.
“Now with the heavy influence of social media and the coverage of the matches on Sportsmax TV, there is a better medium for exposure and there is an added incentive for players and teams to produce good football and to showcase themselves.
But they are more exposed to the world now as there is an opportunity for more marketing and therefore the quality of the football must step up. There is a need for the game to be more organised in terms of play,” Morris said.
The former T&T Senior team assistant coach is now charged with the responsibility of overseeing the programme at University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and he made reference to several players who have come through the SSFL and have gone on to play for UTT and graduate with degrees.
“There are endless opportunities through the league and also for players who continue to go outside to expand their education and their football both at colleges abroad and locally at institutes such as UTT,” he said.
Morris takes Futsal to Maximum Prison
Morris is also a head coach of the National Futsal Team and through the UTT Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, he is involved in a Futsal coaching programme at the Maximum State Prison in Arouca on Mondays and Thursdays of each week.
“What we do is go in there and reach out to these instrumentals who have suffered consequences because of a life of crime. But we are working with them, teaching them about building team spirit and friendship, teach them futsal, refereeing and coaching and it is amazing to see the response among guys who might have been warring against each other previously. We have noticed improvements and seeing humans being transformed before our eyes which is a joy to experience,” Morris said.