On the job for just under a month, former Trinidad and Tobago football maestro Russell Latapy is working feverishly with the National Under 17 Men’s Team to get them fully ready for the upcoming Caribbean Football Union Final Round of Under 17 World Cup qualifiers which takes place in this country from September 16th-25th.
Latapy’s first assignment will be a clash with Haiti at the Ato Boldon Stadium on September 16th at 7:30pm. T&T then faces Bermuda on September 18th at 630pm and they finish the group with a Caribbean derby against Jamaica on September 20th at 7:30pm. All games take place at the Ato Boldon Stadium. There are double headers on each day. Group B matches involving Curacao, Cuba, Suriname and Guadeloupe will be played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Lately pointed out that while there has been steady progress so far, there is still some fine tuning to be done before the opening match.
“I’ve been in charge of the team there going on four weeks along with the rest of the staff. I’m very impressed with the standard of the players in the team. We have good players especially for their age and a lot of them are showing maturity beyond their age but there is a lot of work to do in terms of our organisational aspect of the game set pieces for and against, our positional sense and game awareness. But I am quite happy with the progress so far and with the players and their commitment to training and the effort of moving forward,” Latapy told TTFA Media.
He spoke of some of the immediate areas that needed attention within the 20-man squad.
“One of the important things that I had to do was get the level of fitness up. That was a tricky area because we are close to competition and while we needed to get them fit,they cannot be overworked because the recovery time is very short,” he said.
“One of the other principle areas I have been working on is game awareness and where they play in relation to the ball. At that age group we have in 20 players, we have seven or eight players that are mature beyond their age but then you have another 12 or 13 players who are getting their slowly or surely but tend to chase the ball about a bit, ball watching just keep following the ball and not seeing what is happening with the player they are marking in a defensive role and the ball. I have been working a lot on this and the tactical side of the game. Their technical ability is well on par for their age group,” Latapy explained.
Playing at home is something the ex-Porto FC player emphasized would be a key factor for the way his team approaches the matches.
“We are playing at home and we are Trinidad and Tobago. considered one of the giants in the English-speaking Caribbean. We are going to try and get back to the football we know we can play here which is offensive football, we gonna get the ball down, pass it around and we want to try and win games. With all respect to the other teams we are playing at home and we are going to go forward, try to win the game and entertain the fans and get the crowds back filling our stadiums.”
Lastly, Latapy commented on the support show by Dwight Yorke on Monday when the former Manchester United forward join the team for a training session at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
“We invited Dwight to one of our sessions for various reasons. Dwight is still very fit and he is also one of the players that most young players if not all in this country look up to. He was able to come in and do a session with the strikers, have a word with the team and share his views on our football and what is needed to do to achieve success.
“He emphasised on how hard they need to keep working. And hopefully him being in will give the whole team a lift and that was the whole idea behind it. He was still able to show them which runs to make and how to put the ball into the net. Dwight is a very positive influence on our football and on a lot of young lives. Just having him in there and playing a little scrimmage where they can go and say well yea I passed the ball to Dwight or I got a pass from Dwight that sort of stuff just gives them a lift before we go into this tournament and shows them what is possible for them to achieve with hard work.
“I want to thank Dwight for coming in and I would definitely invite him again to be part of our training session because the young players loved it. You could see them buzzing and speaking to each other about it and it’s the kind of positive influence we always want around any national team,” Latapy added.
T&T will face Haiti in their opening match at the Ato Boldon Stadium from 7:30pm on September 16th with Jamaica facing Bermuda from 5pm in the first game of the double header. T&T also faces Bermuda on September 18th at 6:30pm and Jamaica on September 20th at 7:30pm.
All Group A games will be played at the Ato Boldon Stadium with Group B games including Curacao, Cuba, Guadeloupe and Suriname being played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. The top five teams from the tournament will advance to the CONCACAF Final round in Panama City next April towards the 2017 FIFA Under 17 World Cup in India.