New Trinidad and Tobago national coach Stephen Hart is searching for the best combination of players to field for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and not necessarily only the big names.
Former Canada national coach Hart is preparing Trinidad and Tobago for the Gold Cup, the region’s premier football competition which runs from July 8-28 in the United States. Trinidad and Tobago open the competition in New Jersey against El Salvador on July 8, before playing Haiti (July 12) and Honduras (July 15).
San Fernando-born Hart, 53, was having only a third day with the Soca Warriors yesterday, and was searching for the best players to piece together.
“When you pick a team you don’t necessarily pick the best players. It’s the best fit,” Hart said. “When you put a national team together its about relationships and how players fit in with each other. It’s a team we are picking and everybody has different roles and functions based on the abilities they have.”
There were no obvious “star player” attitudes on show yesterday. Instead, the Soca Warriors trained hard under hot conditions.
Most of the foreign-based players were present including Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, Darryl Roberts, Justin Hoyte, Keon Daniel, Christopher Birchall and Carlos Edwards. Also in the training squad were local standouts including Densill Theobald, who captained the team during the Caribbean Cup, Joevin Jones, Clyde Leon, Devorn Jorsling, Daneil Cyrus and Kevon Carter, among others.
Hart put his players through some intense sprint drills early on. This was followed by practical work in which Hart and assistant national coach Hutson “Baba” Charles put the midfielders and defenders through practise drills of what they would be expected to do during the Gold Cup.
Assistant coach Derek King worked on scoring drills with attackers Jamal Gay, Cornell Glen, Keon Daniel, and Jones, while goalkeeper coach Jefferson George worked with the goalkeeping trio of Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Jan-Michael Williams (St Ann’s Rangers) and Cleon John (North East Stars) doing reaction drills such as saving a hotly-hit tennis ball.
Among the two or three supporters looking on was Michael “Brow” Maurice, keeper of the 1989 Striker Squad, which failed by a point to qualify for the World Cup. Brow at one point was heard offering some friendly advise to keeper Williams. Hart preached perfection and stated:”We have to do it better than that,” on several occasions. His players responded.
“I think the level of intensity and enthusiasm has been excellent and the concentration in the practise has been very good,” Hart said afterward.”
“What I will like to see is us perform in a cohesive manner and manage the game properly on the field. A discipline performance in their lines, in their groups, and then as a cohesive unit is important.”
Hart felt than generally, most of the players conducted themselves in a professional manner. He has found a combination of fit players and out-of-season players, and is therefore taking a cautious approach to how he prepares his team. He ideally would have wanted two international match to have look at his players.
“At this late stage, I am not sure we will get those games, so we have to look for the best possible teams we can play when we are in Florida,” he said.
“If we have the sharpness and we’re playing the right way we can get through the game.“