Wed, Aug

"I think the (Trinidad and Tobago) team is going places," said Trinidad and Tobago striker Stern John. "There is still plenty of work to be done but I feel we are definitely improving."

A 3-0 loss would deflate most teams but John was not too dismayed after his country's defeat away to Mexico on October 13.

It is never easy to gauge a team's readiness from a trip to Mexico although "El Tricolour" hosted T&T at the less problematic Cauhtemoc Stadium in Puebla rather than at the dizzy heights of Mexico City's Azteca Stadium.

The final result was just shades better than Mexico's 3-1 win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

But John is convinced that the "Soca Warriors" are growing mentally stronger and more determined.

To date, Mexico are the only team that T&T have faced in qualifying who are ranked above 115th in the world and the twin island republic were whipped in both legs.

Yet, there is one inescapable truth.

The Warriors are still alive.

After a comfortable 4-1 home win over St Kitts, three days before their Mexico encounter, T&T virtually clinched a berth in the final qualifying round.

Just one point from their final group meeting at home to St Vincent, who they beat 2-0 in their first leg, will take them to final hexagon.

The United States, Mexico, Guatemala are already assured of promotion while Costa Rica are favourites to pip Honduras for the final Group B place.

Only an unlikely away win over the US will rescue Jamaica's campaign with Panama and El Salvador both capable of overtaking them if they slip up.

For the second successive qualifying series, T&T will be present at the final roll call.

But will the story have a different ending?

John believes that the players are wiser and more mature than they were four years ago.

Eight of the 14 players used in their 4-1 win over St Kitts were involved in at least one previous qualifying series.

A meeting with Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special adviser and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, after their home win, may have also cleared up several niggling issues including insurance and match fees.

John said that it was now up to the players to deliver.

"I think the players are very happy now," he said, "especially as certain things have been sorted out which can help us to concentrate fully on our job on the field. It should make it even easier for us to do our jobs on the pitch."

In England, John is sorting out his own career after leaving Premier League Birmingham City for the more modest League Championship team, Coventry City.

The striker has scored just once from the penalty spot in six outings for his new employers but is eager to make the most of his £200,000 move.

His Coventry career has coincided with their seven-game winless streak but he will ignore the damning statistics for as long as possible.

"I thought I would finish my career at Birmingham but that was not to be," said John. "I have been fitting in at Coventry pretty okay but I just need a goal.

"Coventry have a good team and a good manager. We have just been a little unlucky in some of our games."

The change from languishing in the reserves at Birmingham to spearheading the Coventry attack is another new challenge for John, who was the most used substitute in the Premiership last season.

On Saturday, he failed to make an impact in a 1-1 tie at home to bitter rivals, Leicester City.

John, who was still recovering from his international excursions, barely touched the ball six times with just one attempt at goal from a weak header.

He had just three days rest before he faced Burnley on Tuesday with the games coming fast and furious.

He is still trying to adjust to the frenetic pace of the lower division.

"Maybe I am still missing a bit of sharpness," he said, "because for a whole year I have not been playing every week and now it is game after game. But it will come."

Coventry are desperate to defy a tight budget by forcing their way into the Premiership.

John is desperate to help push them there while attempting a similar job in national colours.

He urged Trinidad and Tobago fans to continue to support the team while also asking the government and business sector to help finance their World Cup qualifying campaign.

He commended Warner for the financial assistance they have received so far.

"Hopefully we can reward him and the fans by going on and qualifying for the World Cup," said John.

It would be some ending.