Tue, Jun
41 New Articles

Trinidad and Tobago's standing in global football is expected to improve next June when the "Soca Warriors" turn out at the 2006 World Cup tournament in Germany.

In the Scotland First Division, T&T exports are already setting the tone.

National teammates Jason Scotland and Kelvin Jack were demoted to the Scottish lower league under different circumstance but they are unified by a desire to prove that their talents deserve better.

Their respective clubs, St Johnstone and Dundee, are the major benefactors as the pair maintain the form and confidence that helped T&T to their first senior World Cup final.

On Boxing Day, Scotland became the Division's joint leading scorer with his ninth goal this season for second-placed St Johnstone against Ross County, while Jack helped resuscitate Dundee's faltering promotion hopes with three successive clean sheets since a similar shutout for his country in the World Cup qualifying playoff in Bahrain on November 16.

Scotland, who joined St Johnstone in August after being denied a work permit to continue with Scottish Premier League (SPL) club Dundee United, told the Trinidad Express he is enjoying his best form since leaving T&T Pro League outfit Defence Force for Britain in the summer of 2003.

"I am flying right now," said Scotland. "I am playing every week now, unlike at (Dundee) United, and game by game I am getting more and more confidence to go at defences and try to make things happen."

Jack, who was fined by Dundee for his late return from international duty last month, is also happy to put last year's injury-plagued season behind him and has regained favour with a string of steady performances.

Dundee were relegated from the SPL last season with Jack a peripheral figure due to injuries.

Before Monday's surprise 3-2 loss at home to Airdrie United, though, the ex-CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh custodian went 270 minutes without a goal excluding his crucial clean sheet in Bahrain.

"It is definitely my best run in British football, statistically speaking," said Jack.

"As far as I am concerned, all is well now (between me and the manager) There was a bit of trepidation from the fans when I just came back but they have been okay with me since.

"Hopefully, I would be able to keep them happy over the festive period and for the rest of the season."

Trinidad and Tobago are always at the forefront of Jack's thoughts. He cannot wait to return to international duty although he admitted his disappointment at missing out on a friendly against Brazil and possibly a last chance to play in Port of Spain before the competition in Germany.

"It would have been an unbelievable experience to play against the world's greatest team," said Jack. "Obviously, a player would want to perform in front of his own fans but if it doesn't happen (and we cannot play in Trinidad), we will just get on with the show and play wherever we are asked to play.

"That is up to (coach) Leo Beenhakker and the Federation...all the players can do is be fit and ready for when the time comes."

Scotland, who forced his way into Beenhakker's squad at the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup, is desperate to be a part of the upcoming World Cup and sees his club form as the key.

He admitted that the quality of the First Division does not compare with facing Scottish Premier League teams like Celtic and Hibernian.

But the 27-year-old striker is setting his own challenges, namely consistency and refining his scoring instincts.

"I think if I am at my best in the First Division, I can blow away teams," said Scotland. "But it is the most physical league I have ever played in and you get less time on the ball. It can be a real dogfight.

"Against (leaders) St Mirren, in the first five minutes, a guy punched me in the stomach and tried to stamp me while we were taking a corner I am a marked player but it just makes me more confident because I know it means that they see me as a threat."

Jack and Scotland both have their eyes on promotion although only one Division One team will advance to the SPL.

"The main thing right now is to try and put a run together," said Jack. "We are still 13 points off (the leaders) but football is an unpredictable game We still have 18 games to go and you never know if we can put a run together and put the leaders under pressure."

While Jack targets clean sheets, Scotland is looking to blast St Johnstone into the top flight.

"I think I am better than the First Division," said Scotland.

"My challenge is to score as many goals as I can and I definitely do not want to end up with less than 15 goals. The way I am feeling right now, I think I should get at least ten more."

Dundee and St Johnstone will try to set the proper platform for their Trinidad and Tobago stars to showcase their ability.

If present form is any indication, player and club would be better off for it.