Thu, May

Trinidad and Tobago U-20's Derrel Garcia (#11) and Lindell Sween (#10) in action during a Concacaf U-20 Qualifier match against Canada at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on February 27th 2024.

Here are some facts, and a possible explanation why Trinidad and Tobago failed to show better in our three games during the February 23-March 4 Under-20 CONCACAF Championships.

First, I share that I have known coach Brian Haynes for many decades, having played against him in the ‘70’s while I played for both Maple and Essex. My recall is that he played for Caroni. He was a fine player and was and still is a very fine human being.

From my research, Mr Haynes entered the T&T football coaching picture in early November 2023, “a come through dream of his whether for the male or women’s programme.”

However, his Under-20 run saw the collapse of his and T&T’s dreams when we underperformed in our decisive third game against Canada, losing 3-0 to a far superior side. But the truth be, we did not show well in our first game versus St Vincent and the Grenadines where we eked out a late winner after our 0-2 start.

A 5-0 drubbing of Dominica left T&T feeling ready for the final game with Canada, who demolished the Dominicans 8-0 in their opener.

Let me open with a few key questions.

Why was Coach Haynes chosen? What was the picture in the minds of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association/Normalisation Committee? Basis for these questions!: I was in T&T during the months of November and early December 2023. I made it my duty to watch several Secondary Schools Football League games ranging, from Premier Division, second eleven, Under-16, and the Under-14 levels where my God-daughter’s son plays for Queen’s Royal College.

Following my visit to T&T, I wrote two articles in the Trinidad Express, on December 26, 2023, and January 14, 2024. I outlined many of my observations of an improved level of football that I witnessed. Overall, the observations were very promising and filled with hope, largely because of the talent pool size and calculated and improved coaching injections that the players were receiving. In Part One, we discussed the roles of the next-in-line stakeholders. I opined that until the TTFA picks up the momentum by hiring full-time proven officials and shows itself to be the “rising tide that lifts all boats”, we will continue to labour through future generations. In any event, I encouraged the coach-player duo to continue to assume the responsibility of “flying the flag” as we all wait.

I also pointed out that “our players possess certain new attributes, whose likes have not been seen at any one time in my lifetime. Especially with the SSFL Premier and second eleven levels, they displayed mesmerising speed, strength, power and aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Critical too, is that the “fire in the belly” mindset is at an impressive level. I also found that players showed gains in tactical acuity, often being sharp-eyed in their search to attack as the crow flies. This ability appeared less in the defensive department. Questions are still out there about nutrition, diet, rest, and relaxation, and other difficult-to-assess, non-physical, emotional, and psychological qualities.

Back to the question: Why was Coach Haynes chosen? Why wasn’t the job given to any or a combination of Hutson Charles, Kenwyne Jones, Sean Cooper, Travis Mulraine, Wayne Sheppard, Jerry Moe, Randolph Boyce? Who better to take charge than these coming on the heels of a very competitive and exhilarating 2023 SSFL season, since these men have knowledge of these players! With the help and guidance of technical director Anton Corneal and men’s senior team coach Angus Eve, it seems clear that we could have evaluated a larger pool of competing players eager for selection. I understand that Charles was approached but his Defence Force (DF) duties removed that option. I still refuse to accept this as a plausible reason, especially when Hutson is an assistant with the DF. Country first, club after.

I have no further info on the others, although I see that Shawn Cooper had his input in the team. That decision not to go after two or three of these SSFL coaches was a huge mistake. I know all these coaches save the latter two (to my recollection), who have all been youth and national players under my supervision. And their playing and coaching experiences and exposures tell deep and promising tales, especially in the case of Charles, who also gained significantly as an assistant to Stephen Hart. Study their playing and coaching histories, assess their teams’ performances. See the picture!

To add insult to injury, didn’t Coach Haynes leave mid-stream to return to the US for three weeks during the preparation time? And did he not think he was risking having to say in the post-game media briefing,

“I think I, personally, could have prepared the team better and I didn’t have enough time to do that. It was just like coaching on the run”, Coach Haynes said, adding that, “the players were here before I got here, I didn’t do that. But I trusted Anton Corneal and his staff to do that before I got here.” What, Brian! You, the “General” hired to take the team forward and you neglected to inspect each chosen member? What of a coach’s inner instincts and the spoken-about extra benefits that you vowed you would bring to the game! I hope your second, and understandable reason for wanting to return home did materialise and produced all the blessings you hoped for.

A further observation was made, and it begs the question about the ruling of play for three games in five days, with double headers each day. I tried to contact CONCACAF and the USSF (United States Soccer Federation), both to no avail and the TTFA (no definitive answer). If permitted, would one not try to seize every home team’s advantage by playing the first match of the double-headers? Whatever the crowds, the aim is to win and not have the crowds witnessing curtailing performances.

Contrary to Haynes’ statement, the benefits are sizeable. If permitted, we would play first at 5 p.m., causing obstruction to the opposition from seeing our games since they would be focusing on their later 8 p.m. encounter. In turn, our coaches could fully scout the later games without the need to review the next morning, via video and the implicated logistics. With this option, we would go straight to training with a practice plan in mind. Other earlier-game benefits would include returning to the hotel for an early-enough dinner, shower, and maximum rest time.

Indeed Coach, you “could have prepared the team better!” Indeed, too, we could have selected a more, “on-top-of-things”, coaching staff. Indeed, hindsight is, 20-20. But foresight?

Question...what of the Hicks brothers, Elijah and Ezra?

SOURCE: T&T Express