Trinidad and Tobago football team head coach Dennis Lawrence named his 22-man squad yesterday that will face Wales at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham on the 20th of March.
T&T will see the return of Churchill Brothers forward Willis Plaza who finished top-joint goalscorer in the Indian I-League with 21-goals and, central defenders Carlyle Mitchell and Mekeil Williams respectively.
There were however, two notable omissions in; German-based winger Joevin Jones and Charleston Battery’s midfielder Ataulla Guerra.
The Soca Warriors leave on Sunday March 17 for the high profile friendly.
Trinidad & Tobago Squad
Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Nicklas Frenderup (HB Koge—Denmark), Adrian Foncette (Police FC).
Alvin Jones (W Connection), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa, Costa Rica), Daneil Cyrus (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia), Sheldon Bateau (Sarpsborg 08–Norway), Carlyle Mitchell (Unattached), Mekeil Williams (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA), Triston Hodge (Memphis 901 FC—USA), Ross Russell Jr (Morvant Caledonia United).
Kevan George (Charlotte Independence—USA), Duane Muckette, Leston Paul (both Memphis 901 FC—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Khaleem Hyland (Al Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia), Cordell Cato (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA), Nathan Lewis (Lansing Ignite—USA), Levi Garcia (Kiryat Shmona—Israel), Lester Peltier (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia).
Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers—India).
Coach - Dennis Lawrence (TRI).
Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Leicester), Adam Davies (Barnsley), Chris Maxwell (Charlton, on loan from Preston).
Ashley Williams (Stoke, on loan from Everton), Chris Gunter (Reading), Neil Taylor (Aston Villa), Ben Davies (Tottenham), Connor Roberts (Swansea), James Lawrence (Anderlecht), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Tom Lockyer (Bristol Rovers), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Paul Dummett (Newcastle), Declan John (Swansea).
Ryan Hedges (Barnsley), Joe Allen (Stoke), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Ben Woodburn (Liverpool), Harry Wilson (Derby, on loan from Liverpool), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Matt Smith (FC Twente, on loan from Manchester City), Lee Evans (Wigan), Daniel James (Swansea), Will Vaulks (Rotherham United).
Rabbi Matondo (Schalke), Sam Vokes (Stoke), Tom Lawrence (Derby), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Tyler Roberts (Leeds).
Coach - Ryan Giggs (WAL).
Lawrence reveals reasons for Joevin and Guerra omissions and inclusion of Russell Jr
By Kirwin Weston (Wired868).
Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence revealed that German-based flanker Joevin Jones and United States-based attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra were ruled unavailable to face Wales next week, as he tried to explain his 22-man squad for international friendly action at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham.
Guerra, according to Lawrence, has a slight injury and missed several sessions while Jones allegedly asked to be omitted for personal reasons.
“I am not in any position to make any more comment on [Jones’ withdrawal],” said Lawrence. “I respect his wishes in that it is private and confidential.”
It is the second time in the past five months that Jones withdrew from selection despite being physically able to play. Last October, he also pulled out of a trip to Thailand after saying he needed to mentally regroup.
Lawrence criticised Jones then for his late decision—which left the Warriors with a player short in their travelling party—and published the latter’s letter. But he was more conciliatory today.
Once more, Lawrence pointed to the number of national players in their pre-season and off season as his biggest worry heading into the Wales clash. The Warriors coach addressed this somewhat with a three-week camp for the local-based players but suggested it also prompted his recall of 31 year old forward Willis Plaza, who is campaigning with Churchill Brothers in the India professional league at present.
“For me, I would’ve liked [my players] to be playing competitive football,” said Lawrence. “We tried to put together a three-week training programme [and] we managed to get three friendly games—two against St Ann's Rangers [and] one against the Police FC.
“[But] I think we all know is difficult because we are going take on a Wales squad that [has] got players that played over 30 games in the Spanish La Liga, 30 games in the English Premier League and so forth.
“So, in terms of the players’ match tempo, I think it’s going to be a bit difficult for them. So that’s why it was important to select a squad with a lot of the players that are involved in leagues, like Willis Plaza, Khaleem Hyland, and Sheldon Bateau; because these boys are more active at the moment.”
But how did Morvant Caledonia United winger-cum-left back Ross Russell Jr get in the squad ahead of overseas-based players like Keston Julien (AS Trecin—Slovakia) and Noah Powder (Real Monarchs—USA)?
At present, Powder is in pre-season while Julien, although still in season, has not played for his club since last October. Lawrence said Russell Jr—whose father, Ross Russell, played alongside Lawrence for Defence Force and Trinidad and Tobago and is the current goalkeeping coach—earned his chance by impressing at their training camp.
“We needed to strengthen in the left back position,” said Lawrence. “[…] Ross did very well coming down to the back end of last season and he was invited to be part of the training group and I think he really impressed with what he offers us.
“I think he deserves his selection.”
A versatile flanker, the 26 year old Russell Jr was considered better than useful at Pro League level with his ability to play in either full back or wing role. But his career trajectory was dramatically altered when he was charged for murder in 2016.
It took two years before lawmen realised they held the wrong man; and by then he lost his job as a soldier.
Lawrence suggested that Russell Jr’s international call up—his first at senior international level—was reward for his efforts since his release on 20 August 2018.
“Part of the reform is the boy [is] back now and getting his football career to where it should be,” said Lawrence. “I think we need to see that as a positive. A lot come out [of jail] and go back in.”
Lawrence suggested that he still hopes to have a look at players like Leland Archer, Akeem Roach, Shannon Gomez and Powder—who are all under 23 years old—but felt the short preparation time for the Wales match meant it was not the best opportunity to integrate them.
The Warriors coach confirmed that two local-based players were cut from his training squad due to failed drug tests but declined to name them. He said the duo could be important national players and he hopes they get the help necessary to return to his squad.
“Our job is to help the players, not to reveal anything,” he said. “The clubs have been notified [and] they’re working with the clubs.”
The Warriors depart from Tobago to Manchester tomorrow from where they will head to their training base in Chester, just 15 minutes from Wrexham. Their first training session is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Lawrence, who spent eight years in Wales as a player with Wrexham and then Cardiff City, said he had been trying to get this game ever since his appointment in January 2017.
Trinidad and Tobago, again, will play only once in this FIFA international match window. Lawrence said this was because their other friendly offers were outside of Europe and FIFA regulations advise against playing in different confederations within such short timeframes.
“We had the opportunity to play other friendlies, but [they] were in different confederations,” said Lawrence, whose outfit are preparing for the June 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Ross Russell Jr earns surprise call-up.
By Nigel Simon (Guardian).
North East Stars' Ross Russell Jr, 25, a former Defence Force football stand-out, was the major surprise in a 22-man squad named by T&T senior men's football team coach Dennis Lawrence for the March 20 friendly against Wales, in Wrexham, England.
The squad which departs today from Tobago for Manchester England around 5.15pm was released to the local media by T&T Football Federation Press Officer, Shaun Fuentes on Friday night, while coach Lawrence briefed the media at the Ato Boldon Stadium Couva yesterday morning ahead of the team's departure today for England.
The full team selected by Lawrence includes Sheldon Bateau, Cordell Cato, Daneil Cyrus, Aubrey David, Nickalas Frenderup, Adrian Foncette, Levi Garcia, Kevon George, Neveal Hackshaw, Triston Hodge, Akeem Humphrey, Khaleem Hyland, Alvin Jones, Nathan Lewis, Carlyle Mitchell, Duane Muckette, Leston Paul, Marvin Phillip, Lester Peltier, Willis Plaza, Russell Jr, and Mekeil Williams.
Last August Russell Jr was freed today, after two years in jail awaiting trial for the murder of former Diego Martin resident Selwyn Gaff, 28, who June 6, 2016, from a gunshot wound after being found in the Macqueripe hillside.
A former national youth player Russell Jr, who is the son of former national goalkeeper and the senior men's team current goalkeeper coach and his cousin Balondemu Julius, were detained after Gaff’s death.
They were both then discharged from the Defence Force and formally charged, a week later, with Gaff’s murder, possession of arms and ammunition and shooting at Gaff’s friend, Jesse Quashie, with intent to do previous bodily harm.
While Russell Jr was cleared and freed 36-year-old Julius is still in custody awaiting trial
Commenting on Russell Jr selection, Lawrence, a former Defence Force member himself said, "One of the things that I identified from early on was that we needed to strengthen the left back position, and under recommendation from what I have seen of him, Ross did very well coming down to the back end of last season.
Lawrence added, "He was invited to be part of the training group and I think he really impressed with what he offered us and deserves his selection".
The T&T coach was also full of praise for the new call-up for showing great character is trying to get his career back on track
He said, "I think we also need to take into consideration that we are talking about a footballer that was caught in an issue that he was accused of something and for which he was found not guilting of.
"And if you look at it now, part of the reform is that the boy is back and getting his football career back to where it should be, and I think we need to see that as a positive".
"Because a lot come out and go back in and we are talking here about a football who is here now ready to get his career up on the track and its an absolute pleasure and a reward for him to be where he is now, so I see that only as a positive", stated Lawrence.
Speaking on the eve of the team's departure for Wrexham, England, where the 79th world ranked T&T will come up against Wales, ranked 19th in the world, Lawrence said he had three weeks preparation with the local contingent and would like to commend the players that were involved in that preparation because it was a tough ask.
"We had to put them through their paces because I think we all understood they had been inactive for a long period of time which is not good for any footballer, so we had to try and make good use of the time we had".
"Secondly, I would like to say thanks to Wales for taking the opportunity to see T&T as formidable opposition in their preparation for their Euro qualifiers".
"I think in all the preparations went well, barring a couple one or two little issues we had, which was well documented and has been all dealt with.
In terms of the squad selection, Lawrence said he had one real issue in Ataulla Guerra who picked up a slight injury concern.
"The injury didn't allow him to take part in the majority of the training sessions and from that point, he wasn't in any fit condition to make the squad.
"Losing Guerra to injury is a blow because he an important part of the team, so he is not involved, and someone else will take his place, and its an opportunity for them and that's the way we have to look at it.
"We also have the situation with Joevin (Jones) that for personal reasons had to excused, reasons that I am not in a position to make any more comments on.
"I think I will respect his wishes in keeping it private and confidential, but overall now is about the team, the group travelling from Trinidad to get to the UK to meet up in the preparation for the game against Wales, and hopefully we have got a squad capable of going out there and representing T&T well and putting in a performance that will give us a positive result".
In terms of preparation for the local group, Lawrence said what he would say personally is that he would have liked them to be playing competitive football.
"We tried to put together a three-week training programme, and we managed to get three friendly games against St Ann's Rangers (two) and Police.
"But we all know its difficult and we are going to take on a Wales squad, has got players who have played 30 games in the Spanish Liga as well as English Premier League.
"So in terms of the players match tempo, it's going to be a bit difficult for them, so that's why it was important to select a squad with a lot of the players that are involved in leagues like Willis Plaza and Khaleem Hyland, and Sheldon Bateau, because these boys are more active at the moment".
While admitting his anxiety about returning to his former club and city of residence Wrexham and the match against Wales, Lawrence was quick to point out that his team needs to remember the bigger picture ahead.
"We need to stay focus and understand what this is all about. This is part preparation for the Gold Cup because the end result is the Gold Cup and this is the next step. We also got the June friendlies coming up, but right now we are into the Wales game.
Concerning then two players who were released from the training squad last week after failing a random drug test Lawrence opted against revealing their names, saying "Our jobs are to help the players, not to reveal anything. The clubs have been notified and we are working with the clubs and the idea now is to try and help these players because they are too important for T&T football, so we need to help them so that they can become available.
Asked if they would be reunited back into the squad in the future, the T&T coach stated, "I believe what they can do for T&T football is integral, so the idea now is to help them to work with the football clubs as the T&TFF is going to assist in any way we can because we need to help the players.
"We need to get them where we think they should be and that is representing T&T football.
Meanwhile, there will be yet another homecoming for Head coach Dennis Lawrence in Wales next week. The former defender was able to confirm use of the Everton Training facilities for the senior team's first training session on UK soil ahead of Wednesday's International friendly against Wales at The Racecourse in Wrexham.
T&T 22-man Squad
Sheldon Bateau, Cordell Cato, Daneil Cyrus, Aubrey David, Nicklas Frenderup, Adrian Foncette, Levi Garcia, Kevon George, Neveal Hackshaw, Triston Hodge, Akeem Humphrey, Khaleem Hyland, Alvin Jones, Nathan Lewis, Carlyle Mitchell, Duane Muckette, Leston Paul, Marvin Phillip, Lester Peltier, Willis Plaza, Ross Russell Jr, Mekeil Williams.
Dennis Lawrence (coach), Stuart Charles-Fevrier (assistant coach), Stern John (assistant coach), Ross Russell (goalkeeper coach), Suresh Moonan (team doctor), Dave Isacc (medic), Saron Joseph (physiotherapist), Sam Huggins (trainer), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Wayne Cunningham (logistics manager), Shaun Fuentes (media officer), Richard Piper (Team manager).