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Former national goalkeeper Shaka Hislop said yesterday he hoped the return of Dwight Yorke to the national’s team World Cup campaign would signal “the start of what would be serious and successful push to South Africa 2010.”

Hislop, recently inducted into the First Citizens Hall of Fame said it was up to the team to respond.

Speaking to the media after a brief ceremony in which he handed over a $30,000 cheque to the Cotton Foundation St Ann’s, Hislop said “the biggest blow for the current team was Dwight’s retirement”. He said Yorke is “a fantastic player” but his leadership skills were missed in the present set up. “There’s no doubt in my mind when he came back into the fold in 2005 and brought that experience and leadership, it transformed the team. A lot has been made of our late push for qualification but Dwight’s role in that part was very instrumental,” Hislop said yesterday.

Yorke, who plays for Sunderland in the English Premiership, announced last week that he would end his retirement from international football and return to the national team.

The first game of the final round of CONCACAF Zone World Cup qualifying matches is against Cuba on August 20. Hislop said Yorke is three years older from the last time TT qualified, but more experienced and respected.

“This team needs it and we were struggling to get past Bermuda and I think largely because we did not have the characters, we did not have the leaders we had from two years back,” he said. Hislop did not see any problems with Yorke bonding with the team. Asked to comment on the rift between the TT Football Federation and the government, Hislop said country had to come first. He said the disagreement could stem from different schools of thought and ideas about the path which TT football should take.

“It’s the same thing I said about the arbitration with TTFF or the Football Players Association of TT and our arbitration with the TTFF we all have visions on how we’d like to take football forward,” he said. Hislop said sometimes “ideas do not coincide and compromise and discussion is needed. “Everybody has country at the front of their thoughts” Hislop said.

He did not see the rift between the TTFF and government affecting the team because the players did not get involved.

Shaka: Give new bloods a chance.
By: Clydeen McDonald (Guardian Arena).

“Unfair” is how newly inducted First Citizens Sports Foundation Hall of Famer Shaka Hislop describes the comparison being made between the current national team and the one which represented T&T in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Hislop was among 15 former T&T sporting personalities, who were, honoured for their contributions to national sports at the Foundation’s Induction Ceremony, at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, on Thursday night.

The former national goalkeeper, who represented T&T on it’s World Cup debut in Germany, said that the public can’t expect the team to be the same two years after the World Cup.

Hislop in an interview with G-Sport sighted the many differences.

“If you look at the two teams anyone who is being realistic can see that they are totally different. Firstly there’s a new coach, new players with a different styles of play, because of the age of the last squad we have lost many players and the times at which we are looking at the two teams are also different. One team was in the World Cup and the other is just entering the semifinal round of qualifying,” said Hislop.

“The other team which we saw in the World Cup had its development problems as well in the early stages,” Hislop reminded.

While many have criticised the current national coach Francisco Maturana, Hislop would not add his voice to that choir, instead he offered a different view.

“I would not say yes a coach should step down. In my career I have played for different clubs and under different coaches everyone was different and the way he does things is not the way you or I would,” said Hislop.

Hislop urged the public to believe that the team which is currently on the field, has just a good a chance as any to take T&T to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but must be allowed the time to develop into a unit which can achieve that goal.

“As I see it, the team is in a period of transition and must be allowed the time to develop,” Hislop remarked.

Hislop says that the problems which the team had against Bermuda being defeated 2-1 in the first leg and facing a must win scenario in the second leg served as good lesson.

“Bermuda was a nasty scare. Anyone who supports T&T football would have felt uncomfortable with us facing a situation like that but the players and team officials would have learned from it I am sure,” said Hislop.

When asked if he would offer any advice to the team at any point, Hislop remarked, “What can you tell them that they should play better, they know that everyone is telling them. We must not assume that the players don’t know these things because they do.”

He continued, “There were times in my own career when the same thing happened to me, you know that you are not playing well and you just look for ways to get out of spot you are in.”

“There’s always going to be patches where things aren’t going well,” Hislop offered. “But you have to pick yourself up from the low points. The players who last the longest are the players who continually pick themselves up from their low point and take the criticisms that come with bad performances.”

When asked what would happen if we don’t qualify, Hislop was reminded of previous incarnation of national teams, who also failed to qualify.

“Their were other teams before which were on the verge of qualification and failed. The issues would be how the team and the people coped with the failure.

“If we were to take another 16 years to qualify like we did after ‘89 (World Cup campaign) that would be a tragedy. I hope that if it were to come to that it doesn’t take that long this time around,” Hislop said.

“There’s always going to be patches where things aren’t going well, But you have to pick yourself up from the low points. The players who last the longest are the players who continually pick themselves up from their low point and take the criticisms that come with bad performances.”