Soca Warriors Online (SWO) caught up with Trinidad and Tobago football federation's technical director Mr. Lincoln Phillips and did an exclusive interview with the former T&T goalkeeper.
Though I've never seen him play, Mr. Phillips, who is locally known as the "Tiger", is regarded as one of T&T's top goalkeepers of all time.
The St. James-born former Howard University graduate was very enthusiastic about the interview and dedicated his time to gives us an in-depth release:
Over to you Lincoln.
"Thanks Flex. It's always a pleasure to share with you and the members of www.socawarriors.net some insight to what I am doing and the activities of our national team programs."
"Before I go any further, I would like to give my heartfelt condolences to the family of Earl John (EJ) who passed away Friday and was laid to rest yesterday."
"All too often, the federation is critically painted with a broad brush. However, there are a large number of wonderful, dedicated men and women who toil anonymously for the TTFF."
"EJ' was one of those individuals. He was a wonderful soul who was generous with his wisdom. He helped me through some challenging times. I will miss his grace and friendship."
We have not heard from you in a while Mr. Phillips. What have you been up to as far as T&T football goes ?
"I certainly haven't disappeared from the scene as some of you would suggest."
"Until fairly recently, most of my time had been focused on continuing the “D” Licence Coaching Courses. Over 800 coaches have been certified through this program."
"While some may dispute the significance of the "D" Licence program, I believe in its value because its curriculum entails the basic components necessary in developing the modern footballer and prepares a large base of trained coaches to meet the demands of more advanced coaching courses that will be offered in the near future."
"In addition, a number of our top-level footballers have been positively impacted by this program. Both Derek King and Ross Russell are past students. It's also worthy to mention that most of the Defence Force players participated in the course in the off-season before their winning campaign."
"This is a trend that we would like to continue with the all of the PFL and Super League players because they are the main source of future coaches in this country."
"I would also like to make the point that football has the power to make a positive impact in some of our most marginalized communities and I am proud to have been given the opportunity to bring courses to community organizations, government ministries, and prison and police services in addition to the usual members of the football fraternity."
"Coaches are uniquely positioned to become mentors in the lives of young people and I want to do everything I can to see coaches recognize and utilize the influential position they can play within our society."
"Another endeavor I am leading is the launch of the Association of Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (AFCATT). It is my hope that this entity will serve the varying needs of football coaches in Trinidad and Tobago."
"AFCATT is in its earliest stages but we have formed a Steering Committee that is tasked with, among other items, creating the logistics of the nomination process for our officers and directors. Articles of Incorporation have also been filed and approved by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and a draft of our constitution is being reviewed."
"We hope to have the first annual general meeting in December 2010 and create a slate of committees. I am excited to see how everything will unfold. There are a number of people who have taken on this project with a great deal of zest and I think people will be impressed with the final product."
"I have also recently begun to work with Russell Latapy and it looks like I will be playing a bigger role on the national team level similar in some ways to what I was doing in the lead up to the '2006 World Cup."
Are you officially an assistant coach ?
I am still the Technical Director but also became an official member of the technical staff in order to help develop our national goalkeeping pool."
"However, since Russell does not have a full-time assistant, I have also recently stepped in to provide whatever technical support he needs. While he was away in July, I conducted two practice sessions and I am certainly willing to provide whatever support he needs."
"In the meantime, I will continue to work with the goalkeepers and have begun a program with the PFL teams to organize supplemental training for their goalkeepers. This training focuses on technical and tactical skills as well as goalkeeper-specific strength and conditioning."
"The strength training sessions are to be led by our national team physios, Orlando Griffith and Gregory Seale. Ideally we would like to build a reliable pool of 6 goalkeepers for each age group."
"I have also encouraged PFL coaches to send their forwards to the technical training sessions so the goalkeepers will receive shot stopping and cross ball training."
"This will also, hopefully, benefit the outfield players as well and reverse the erosion of ball striking skills that plague many of our footballers."
Is Marvin Faustin the assistant coach ?
"No. Russell needed some assistance with his practice sessions early in his appointment and Marvin was a colleague who graciously offered to help."
What were your thoughts on our last game vs. Jamaica ?
"Any time we play Jamaica, it is a big match; friendly or not. The game highlighted several trends that continue to adversely affect many of our local players. What concerned me the most about the performance was the overall lack of intensity."
"We tend to play at one pace and are still not able to quickly change the point of attack. Our off the ball movement and ability to transition and make penetrative runs were non-existent and our defensive effort as a team was not up to the standard we must reach if we are to qualify for any major tournament. It was not a good performance and no one should be happy with the display."
"However, I cannot look at these matches from the perspective of a fan where the result is the only item that matters. I am looking at the entire process and take into account all the games we have played from Chile to this most recent match."
"As a technical staff we must keep an even keel in the aftermath of these games because each game serves a narrow and particular purpose. And though we always want to win, sometimes, the most disappointing loss can provide the breakthrough needed for substantive change and positive development."
How many caps does a player needs for the T&T coach to recognised they are capable or not when it comes to international football, ie. Aklie Edwards, Keston Williams and Makan Hislop. Are these the best locally defenders we can find. ?
"That is certainly a question for the head coach to ultimately determine but I think we should be careful not to discard players too early."
"Keep in mind, there have been players in the past that fans wrote off but the coach saw certain qualities that eventually served the team well in important matches."
"At the same time, players must recognize when they are on the bubble and play with the type of urgency that is required to make a positive contribution and impression. In short, they must play like they give a damn."
What kind of scouting does the coaching staff do ?
"Not enough. The PFL and CONCACAF tournament matches are covered and we are keeping tabs on MLS, NASL and European based players. That being said, nothing beats travelling to the locations of the games to watch the players in club training sessions and having that face to face dialogue with players and their respective coaches."
"Ideally, I would like to see our scouting develop towards such a model but it takes significant financial resources to make such a plan come to pass. Hopefully, the resources will be made available for Russell to do this."
"However Flex, your player identification efforts and suggestions are always welcome. I pass them through to the head coaches and administrators after checking them out. I will never forget the role yourself and Tallman played in making the U-20 player combine we had in December of 2005 such a success."
What do you think of the job Russell is doing ?
"Russell is a young coach who will make mistakes just like any other coach. But he is progressing well and has the respect of the players. I am eager to see him in action with the full compliment of the overseas players."
"People may have legitimate concerns about his experience and whether he can guide the senior team but based on what I have seen and heard from him, he has the makings to be a good coach."
"I want to see Russell succeed and every Trinbagonian should also want to see Russell succeed because he represents future coaching opportunities for T&T players and coaches. At the same time, we don’t want to have a local coach simply for the sake of having a local coach."
"The national team is not an entitlement program. Any local coach who serves as national coach must maximize and take full advantage of the opportunity provided. In the end, the local coach must be given the same resources and be held to the same standards of review that are applied to a foreign-based coach."
"Imagine in the first ever world cup held in Africa, you have six African countries and only one of the teams had a local coach. There is a narrative that has gone on for far too long and it is time we understand that must change."
What do you think of the recent events surrounding the player's lawsuit ?
"Flex, I've really tried to stay away from commenting on that case while it was being played out in the courts. The whole matter has been such a stain on our football for the past four years."
"Even though I haven't commented on the issue, I have kept abreast of its developments because it does affect the performance of our players and team. All too often, the impact of off the field matters such as this is taken very lightly."
"Flex, I am not an in your face person and certain questions I really don't like getting involved with. I try to let my work to the talking and even though you may feel I am not there, I am always on top of situations."
"However, I would like to add that the impasse may have had more of a negative impact on the South Africa World Cup campaign than many people realize. The goodwill created by the team’s performances in the qualification rounds and in Germany has all but evaporated."
"Considering that the case has been settled on its merits on the arbitration level and now at the local high court, I personally feel this matter has the potential to go beyond the football arena and become a measure on how we regard the decisions of judicial institutions that are important and vital to a functioning society."
"I would love to experience the joy and great vibes we felt between November 2005 and June 2006. But as we begin our efforts to qualify for Brazil, we’ve got to make this situation right and take whatever steps we can to make sure it does not happen again."
"Hopefully both sides will unclench their fists and come to a fair and just resolution. We must all hope and pray for a win-win outcome."
What really happened between you and Wim Rijsbergen ?
"I should start out with what did not happen. I certainly was never cuffed or punched. Wim marched into my office cursing and screaming about an article that contained comments I made about the team."
"He said in so many words that only he alone should talk about the national teams. Now, mind you, I am the Technical Director within my own country yet in this man’s view I cannot answer any questions asked of me about the national team" ?
"To tell you the truth I was not pleased at the arrogance he displayed in making such a statement and the manner he acted in this instance as well as previous instances towards other coaches and staff members. After a very heated exchange, I escorted him out of my office and filed a complaint with the TTFF Executive Committee."
"Though I did not seek his removal, I supported the Executive Committee's decision because it sent a message that the TTFF will not tolerate such behavior."
"Coaches who come from abroad must understand they are accountable to a local administrative structure, warts and all, and they are expected to treat local coaches and administrators with dignity and respect."
"Most importantly, our local fraternity must expect to act in a similar manner toward each other because when we air out our dirty laundry, snipe at, and undermine our fellow local coaches we send a message to others that it is ok to do the same."
"The manner in which Leo Beenhakker and Even Pellerud have conducted themselves and shared their knowledge is the model we should expect of coaches from abroad, ended Phillips."