March News

February News

Wednesday March 28th, 2001

PFL get Unit Trust ‘Charity’

Sports Desk

CHARITY was in the air at the Unit Trust Corporation penthouse, Port of Spain yesterday morning as Professional Football League (PFL) chief executive officer Colin Prevatt spoke of their plans for the 2001 season.

Chief among his itinerary is the Unit Trust Corporation sponsored PFL Charity Challenge which will be introduced to the local game on Sunday, April 1, at the João Havelange Centre of Excellence, Macoya.

There will also be a PFL Reserve League which features the national under-17 squad—dubbed Team 2001—and Tobago Phoenix FC among its ten teams.

Phoenix will use the newly constructed Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet as their home ground while defending League and FA champs Vibe CT 105 W Connection FC adopt the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. Arima Fire and Police will move into the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar and the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella respectively.

Football supporters are also invited to participate in a PFL raffle with tickets going on sale for just $5. The raffle will be drawn on June 6, 2001 with the first prize being $5,000 in UTC units plus a trip for two to Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup qualifier against the United States in Boston including hotel accommodation and US$500 spending money. Second place is $2,500 in UTC units plus four VIP tickets to T&T’s World Cup game at home to Jamaica while the third prize is $1,000 in UTC units and two VIP tickets for the same match against Jamaica.

The feature of the morning’s press conference, though, was the introduction of the Charity Challenge
which will pit the defending League champions against the FA title holders.

As both titles, at present, belong to southerners W Connection, FA runners-up Joe Public will get the opportunity for the first trophy of the season.

Either team was requested to select a charity to which their winnings on the day will be sent.

The winners of the inaugural Challenge match will receive $6,000 for their charitable cause as well as the Challenge Cup and 25 gold medals while the loser still walks off with 25 silver medals and $4,000 for their organisation of choice.

W Connection selected Phillip’s Children Home and the Marabella Crisis Centre as their choice of charitable organisation while the “Eastern Lions” chose the St Mary’s Children Home.

Patrons must pay an admission fee of $20 for stands and $10 for bleachers with gate receipts being added on to the charitable donation of the winning outfit. There was some charity for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) and national senior team coach Ian Porterfield as well. Prevatt announced that the PFL executive had decided, after negotiations with Porterfield, to harmonise their competitive schedule to suit the needs of the national senior team and their bid for a 2002 World Cup spot.

This, as Prevatt explained, means that the 2001 PFL season will feature just 14 League games per club while all players selected to train with the T&T senior team will be excluded from the President’s Cup competition.

The President’s Cup is sponsored by L-Sporto and offers $100,000 to the winner while the League champions will pocket $500,000 from the $1.5 million prize money at stake.

It was Prevatt’s way of saying that charity begins at home but Fifa vice-president and Joe Public club owner Jack Warner—who also holds the post of T&TFF “special advisor”—was not impressed.

Warner, who sat in the audience rather than at the head table, complained that his team had at least ten players who were regularly selected for national team training and voiced concern that his team was being marginalised.

“One club has ten foreign players and they will all get to play,” said Warner. “The next club has ten locals and they are... penalised. How can that be fair?”

Harold Taylor, general secretary of the Caribbean Football Union, chipped in his opinion as well as two of the most powerful men in regional football publicly took the PFL CEO to task.

“If the best players cannot play,” said Taylor, “the competition is going to fail.”

One member of the media also pointed out that although 25 local-based players are often summoned to train as little as four are eventually selected. But Prevatt was adamant that the PFL must not “take away from the national drive”.

“There was the chance of a more agreeable conclusion to their concerns in the near future, he insisted, but still “we are willing to sacrifice now and I’m urging the clubs to do the same”.

Warner grudgingly held his peace with the knowledge that their $100,000 President’s Cup race just got more difficult.

         Yorke: We must believe in ourselves

TRINIDAD and Tobago and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke yesterday stressed the value of elf-belief to his teammates.

Yorke gave his pep talk as the national footballers had their first session in San Jose, Costa Rica yesterday morning on a small training field owned by the Imperial Brewery.

Preparing for tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, coach Ian Porterfield conducted a two-hour session in cool conditions and all the players, including captain Russell Latapy and Yorke, were active throughout, according to Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation communications officer Shaun Fuentes.

Missing from the 18-man squad is Wales-based defender Dennis Lawrence, who returned to London on Sunday and was not included in the touring party because of a fractured rib.

Since the team’s arrival, the contingent has been followed by the Costa Rican media, with television cameras lined up as the players stepped off the plane.

A large delegation of reporters and cameramen were also awaiting the team’s arrival at the Melia Cariari Hotel.

The media were barred from entering the training session, but several photographers were seen positioned behind trees outside a wire fence.

Skipper Latapy then decided to invite them closer to the action. Following the morning session, Porterfield, Yorke and Reynold Carrington all reiterated the need for the players starting to believe in themselves and applying themselves more on the field of play.

“It is very important that we the players begin believing that we can do this. We must know to ourselves that we are capable of doing the job,” Yorke told his compatriots. “If there’s anyone who doesn’t believe that we can qualify then he shouldn’t be in the team. We have to realise that whenever a player speaks to another about the way he’s playing and trying to advise him, it’s not because he’s trying to criticise you but it’s because he wants to see better and he believes you can do better.”

In an interview later with Fuentes, Porterfield said “action speaks louder than words” and he emphasised the importance of the “Soca Warriors” picking up where they left off in the semi-final round when they finished top of the four-team group.

He mentioned there were some disappointing aspects of T&T’s play in the 3-1 victory over Guatemala at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last Saturday, but also felt there was good coming out of the match. 

“When you look at the Guatemala game, lots of things happened in that game. Most certainly the first 45 minutes I could criticise and make a lot of comments because that’s not the way we expect to play.

“On the other hand you look at it a different way. Dennis (Lawrence) fracured a rib and couldn’t play, Tony Rougier was out having come into the country that night, so basically the back four was completely different. Cyd Gray’s first international, Ian Cox playing in the centre with Marvin Andrews and Stokely Mason on the left.”

And goalkeeper Shaka Hislop was not used in Saturday’s game after complaining of feeling dehydrated.

“We worked very hard during the week. We tried one or two little experiments and I think we need to do these sort of things. It was disappointing but certainly good things came out of the game as well,” added Porterfield.

“The good things really were the performance of Cyd Gray in his first game, young Brent Rahim coming on in the second half and Nigel Pierre coming in and scoring two goals. These are young players of the future and that was a big plus. We’ll learn from that game.

Porterfield recalled T&T’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica in the Gold Cup quarter-finals last year, but added that that’s all history now.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are playing our second consecutive away game, which is not easy and, of course, last time we had a great run of games and it was terrific for everyone. This time it’s happening in the reverse.

“So we have to go into this game and be sensible and play with our brain and heart and hope that we can get a win. It would be just as good if we can go back home with a result because after that we have got two home games and basically just three away games again.”

The 18 players in San Jose are: Shaka Hislop, Clayton Ince, Stern John, Dwight Yorke, Anthony Rougier, Nigel Pierre, Brent Rahim, Russell Latapy, Stokely Mason, Marvin Andrews, Ian Cox, Ronnie Mauge, Mickey Trotman, Reynold Carrington, Evans Wise, Lyndon Andrews, Angus Eve and Cyd Gray.

Porterfield: You've got to want it bad

Trinidad and Tobago's senior footballers had their first session in San Jose, Costa Rica, yesterday morning on a relatively small training field, owned by Imperial Brewery. Coach Ian Porterfield conducted a two-hour session in cool weather conditions.

Coach Scotland-born Ian Porterfield in looking to tomorrow's 2002 World Cup qualifier here says the "Soca Warriors" has to pick up from where it left off in the semifinal round when it finished top of the four-team group.

"We know that we've got to perform better as a group of players when Wednesday's game comes and get back to the good habits and hopefully that will be our objective between our arrival here and the game."

Porterfield remembers T&T's 2-1 win over Costa Rica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals last year and hopes ... but says that's all history now.

"Don't get me wrong, we are playing our second consecutive away game which is not easy and of course last time we had a great run of games and it was terrific for everyone. This time it's happening in the reverse.

"So we have to go into this game and be sensible and play with our brains and hearts and hope that we can get a win.
"I think we've built something really terrific over the last 12 months but those games are in the past.

"We need everyone to be totally focussed, totally disciplined and totally dedicated to the challenge ahead. We've got to get back to good organisation again.

"I feel that on the pitch we've got to start to take a bit more responsibility. I know we've only played one game in Jamaica. Now we're into our second game. I certainly believe this is like a World Cup final.

To me it's like when we were going to Haiti last year. We went there with a great passion and desire. This is what the lads have got to find this time around.

"Hopefully, we've got the experience and ability, it just depends how much (bad) we really want it. "As I said to Dwight the other day, how much did you sacrifice for United to win the treble. You've got to give up some things and we've all got to give up everything to try and achieve what we are trying to."

Unimpressive T&T secure 3-1 win

DENNIS LAWRENCE was not included in the line-up nor was Anthony Rougier, who was scheduled to arrive on the night of the match. And Shaka Hislop took in the action from the bench.

The scene was the newly-refurbished Hasely Crawford Stadium on Saturday night. And the occasion was the Trinidad and Tobago senior national football team’s final preparation game before their second-round Football Confederation World Cup final round qualifying match against Costa Rica Wednesday.

And playing an unfamiliar outfit and system, coach Ian Porterfield’s team outscored Guatemala 3-1.

The result was, T&T supporters will be hoping, the “confidence booster” for which coach Porterfield sought, after T&T’s 1-0 loss to Jamaica in their opening final World Cup qualifying game last month in Kingston.

But if the purpose of Saturday night’s encounter was to settle the T&T starting side ahead of the Costa Rica clash, then things are still too unsettled.

Surprisingly, Joe Public defender Cyd Gray made his international debut for T&T in the right back position while his clubmate Stokely Mason was pushed into the left back position to make way for SV 07 Eversberg’s Evans Wise in left midfield.

Wise was part of a five-man midfield that included W Connection’s Reynold Carrington, Bristol Rover’s Ronnie Maugé, Joe Public’s Angus Eve and Hibernian’s Russell Latapy. And Manchester United star striker Dwight played solo up front.

But the local players had not been allowed time to get accustomed to their new structure when the Guatemalans stunned them.

Only four minutes had elapsed since the initial blast of Richard Piper’s whistle when a build-up down the left flank saw the tiny Freddy García squeeze the ball through three T&T defenders to find Uwaldo Perez unmarked at the top of the box. His one-time left-footed shot went screaming past Clayton Ince between the uprights for T&T and came to rest in the top right-hand “vee”.

Silenced by the Perez coup, the 10,000 strong crowd watched as the “Soca Warriors” struggled to come to terms with their new system.

Yorke, accustomed to the constant and accurate service of David Beckham and company at Old Trafford, was certainly lacking in quality crosses from Eve and Wise on either side of the pitch.

Most of Wise’s dribbling forays managed only to concede possession to the Guatemalan opponents.

But luckily, T&T did not have to depend solely on the Germany-based player for distribution.

Forced to bring the ball out of the defence for most of the first period, the creative Latapy fashioned a cross from the right Marvin Andrews headed against Josue Ortiz’s far post three minutes from the interval.

In an interview following the game, Yorke said “harsh words” were exchanged in the dressing room at the break.

Whatever happened at that juncture, T&T came out to net three times in the final half.

Maugé was set up by an Eve right-sided ball that the Guatemalans failed to clear three minutes after the resumption.

And Nigel Pierre, the in-form attacker in the T&T’s tours to Brazil and England, got a double.

But although five changes saw a not-too-pleased Latapy leave the field and afforded the spectators the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the hard-tackling and hard-working Brent Rahim in the middle, most of the fans were left unconvinced by their team’s effort.

Even Yorke commented that he was not “pleased” with the team’s general performance and that there was still a lot to be “worked on” before their next game against Costa Rica on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for Yorke and his team, there is little time to smooth out the rough edges. Perhaps too little, seemed to think the fans streaming out of the Stadium on Saturday night.

Young Soca Warriors lose the war

LASANA LIBURD reviews the recent Concacaf U-20 tournament

IT took only two of the three scheduled Football Federation Under-20 World Cup qualifying matches to decide the fate of the Trinidad and Tobago National Youth team.

Even with home advantage, the young Soca Warriors fell short of their intended target of securing a spot in the 2001 Argentina Youth World Cup which begins this June. For the first time, the Concacaf region has received four places to the party but it still proved to be insufficient for national team coach John Granville and his troops.

Instead, it was Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada and the United States who benefited and marched on to compete with the world’s elite 24 youth footballing nations.

Perhaps the saddest and most worrying aspect of the whole affair for T&T football supporters was the patent predictability of the elimination.

Granville’s boys had as much chance of qualifying for the Youth World Cup as the National Carnival Commission (NCC) has of getting support from its Dimanche Gras competitors for the judges’ decision.

Even before a ball was kicked, the record of the young Soca Warriors seemed unlikely to approach the heights of Bertille St Clair’s 1991 World Youth Cup squad.

In their last eight practice games before they faced Costa Rica in the tournament’s opening game, T&T had lost seven times—four of these games against already eliminated regional Under-20 teams—with just one draw.

It is also worth mentioning that the lone draw came against a Forest Reserve Village XI Youth team who were handpicked by Granville to give his Warriors a psychological boost before going into the tournament.

For all but the blindest optimist, the die was cast.

Much was said in the João Havelange Centre of Excellence stands about the composition of the team and the competence of their technical leaders.

The absence of ex-national Under-17 midfielder Kwame Wiltshire and St Benedict’s College player Silvio Spann was discussed as the young national team clearly lacked a playmaker.

It also seemed more than passing strange that composed defender Devin Jordan, also a past Under-17 player, was left out of a backline that looked totally out of sorts with the ball at their feet.

But then it was not just the choice of players that concerned onlookers; the selection of coach Granville and technical director Jim Kelman gave pause as well.

It took over six months for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) to send a brief biography—a résumé was never sent—of the duo to the media and it revealed more by what was not said than what was written.

Kelman has only coached one team that anyone may have ever heard of—English lower division club Wycombe Wanderers—while Granville has never held the position of head coach.

That said, though, it would be unfair to blame the failure of the T&T team entirely on either gentleman as the odds were clearly against them.

The US team, for example, had been together in training for the past 14 months and had over 40 matches under their belt against quality opposition including the Argentina Under-20s.

Most of US coach Wolfgang Suhnholz’s team had been playing together long before that too as the core of his team came from their impressive 1999 Under-17 World Cup squad.

Costa Rica and Guatemala had already experienced the rigours of a qualifying tournament in the earlier rounds and their respective coaches should have known exactly how their players would perform under pressure.

The local squad, on the other hand, had the benefit of just one overseas tour and three friendly matches against local Professional Football League (PFL) teams. The difference in exposure and experience is vast.

There was some measure of sympathy for Granville then when he admitted to the media that his team simply “froze” in their opening game against Costa Rica.

They lost that match 3-0 to the eventual tournament winners and, in the process, backed themselves into a must-win situation against a strong US team.

To their credit, the team’s positive response was admirable, particularly considering the loss of their team captain Marvin Lee just three minutes into the match.

Lee broke bones at the front and back of his neck while attempting an awkward challenge on marqueé US player Landon Donovan.

The former Tranquillity Government Secondary defender has since lost the use of his legs—hopefully temporarily—as a result of the collision while Donovan added insult to injury by returning to the field to score a fine goal in the 5-1 rout.

Precision and intelligence, on that day, won out over brawn and unfocused energy.

The young “Warriors” finally came into their own against Guatemala and, although they had to settle for a 0-0 scoreline, the hosts were good enough for a win. But the Central Americans had already conceded 13 goals in two matches and were hardly a yardstick by which to judge one’s credentials at this level.

The Soca Warriors were not good enough to compete at this level but, having discovered as much, the T&TFF must now look to reassess and revamp rather than dismantle.

The future technical staff, whether led by Granville or not, must begin with the core of this team as a starting point towards a clearly defined final goal.

It was not the best technical bunch of local players yet the dedication and heart shown by the youngsters—starting with their commitment on the training ground—was impressive and should be preserved.

Graham, a youth player with Joe Public, looked a promising shot blocker despite the battering he took from the competition’s top two teams.

In front of him, Naparima College defender Jace Peters performed creditably although his distribution still needs much work.

The T&T offence struggled with just one goal to show from three outings but striker Devon Mitchell and midfielders Michael Celestine, Collin Samuel, Sean Cooper also showed signs that they might one day earn international caps.

Doc’s Khelwalaas utility player Nigel Daniel, given the right tutoring, may solve one half of the national senior team’s flank problems in the future with his ability to play at either full-back or on the wing.

Whether or not Kelman and Granville—both disciplined, hard workers despite their international inexperience—go or stay is a decision that is the T&TFF’s to make. And they cannot be afraid to bite the bullet.

It is time they realised, though, that even a decorated, recognisable face at the touchline will not guarantee Trinidad and Tobago’s football a future among the Federation’s elite.

Only proper planning and preparation will do that.

Monday March 25th, 2001

T&T in final warm-up

By Gregory Trujillo

FEARS that Trinidad and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy might have to miss tonight's warm-up match against Guatemala because of a knock he got in training on Thursday were expelled by the Hibernian professional yesterday.

When asked why Latapy was not among the squad training yesterday morning, T&T coach Ian Porterfield explained that the "Little Magician" had been injured in training the day before and it was felt he should rest.

"We just felt that it was best for him to rest and take it easy and hope that he will be okay and be available for the game tomorrow," Porterfield said.

Also missing yesterday morning's session were British-based players Ronnie Mauge, Ian Cox, Clayton Ince, Dennis Lawrence, Marvin Andrews and Anthony Rougier - all of whom were due to fly in between yesterday and early today.

Among the overseas-based players going through their paces were Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Stern John (Nottingham Forest), Lyndon Andrews (Hibernian), Evans Wise (SV 07 Elversberg), Stokley Mason (Reading) and Brent Rahim (Los Angeles Galaxy).

However, when questioned about the injury, Latapy indicated it was only a sore back and was not serious enough to keep him out of the match.

"I was told there is a disc in my back that isn't aligned properly so sometimes it acts up on me," the midfield general pointed out.

About today's game, Latapy said: "Every time the national team plays it is important. Obviously, you will want to win all games, but the most important game in this case is the one against Costa Rica.

"That's what is going to take us to the World Cup, so hopefully we will be working on the things that we will like to do against Costa Rica and we hope that we can get a win."

Latapy said the lush green and flat surface at the stadium should help the type of football the team plays. "We all like to put the ball down and pass it. That's the type of pitches we play on. We're used to it so it should help us in achieving our goal."

He also believes that T&T is good enough to win in Costa Rica on Wednesday. "Saying that we are going to win is one thing," he explained. "But the other thing is going out there and proving it. We've been working hard here so hopefully we should get everything right on the day."

Porterfield said it was a blessing all the players were able to come together here and he expects them to have another five to six sessions before the Costa Rica game.

"It's all we can really get. I think we are quite lucky this time around to get a lot of the lads to come a little early," the Scotland-born coach said.

He was hopeful the team would get all of its work done for what is probably its most important match in the final round of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.Having lost its opening match to Jamaica 1-0, T&T must get a positive result in San Jose.

Anything less will put Latapy's squad in dire straights for the remainder of the series. "This is being considered a Cup final," Porterfield said.

"This is a game that you know we've worked hard for. We know there is a long way to go but if we get the right result in Costa Rica I think we would just have to see how the remaining games go."

While kick-off is set for 8 pm, gates will open at 4 pm and there will be live entertainment, including the launch of calypsonian Ronnie Mc Intosh's new football song. The T&T team leaves tomorrow for Costa Rica.

Lee unsatisfactory, but mom’s hopeful


TRINIDAD and Tobago national Under-20 football captain Marvin Lee remains in unsatisfactory condition at the St Clair Medical Centre in St Clair.

Lee, who got the worse of an on-field collision with a USA player on Tuesday evening, cannot move his legs and managed only a faint movement of his right arm on Thursday. Yesterday, his condition remained virtually unchanged but the movement of his arm was, his doctors said, “slightly stronger”.

The former Tranquillity Government Secondary injured himself while attempting to tackle talented United States national Under-20 forward Landon Donovan during the match which T&T lost 5-1.

Donovan, who plays for German club Bayer Leverkusen, has since left Trinidad to join the US national senior team in camp but Lee was left with a serious spinal fracture and damage of the spinal cord. He had broken bones at the front and back of his neck and he underwent a “successful” emergency operation, doctors are not certain whether he will ever be able to walk—let alone play football—again.

“We are still in no position to say whether he will recover or not,” said Dr Rasheed Adam. “We have people from this type of injury who don’t recover and some who do, so it’s difficult to tell. He did show some slight improvement in the right arm which is moving a little bit better.

“His condition is stable but unsatisfactory.”

Adam could not say when Lee would be able to return to his home at Santa Rosa Heights in Arima. Even after he leaves the Medical Centre, he will require physiotherapy and special care which he may be unable to get at home at this time.

At his bedside, though, Lee’s unemployed mother Dawn Warrick was calmness personified and seemed unfazed by the uncertainty surrounding the eldest of her three children.

“He seems much better off than when he came in,” Warrick told the Express. “I have been praying a lot. So has Marvin and a lot of churches.

“I know there is a God out there and he is looking over him so Lee unsatisfactory, but mom’s hopeful I know he’ll be okay.”

Lying prostrate on a hospital bed with only his head—which was supported by a neck brace—visible and an open New Testament Bible at his side, Lee seemed equally calm.

He smiled reassuringly at this reporter and said that he was not in pain. He appeared slightly disappointed that he had not been able to hear the discussion with his mother.

“Ma, what allyuh talk ‘bout?” he asked when she was back in his line of vision. Her initial reply was evasive but it seemed likely that she would give him a fuller answer later.

Neither Dr Adam nor St Clair chief officer Larry Duncan was prepared to disclose just how much the treatment had already cost or was likely to cost in the long run. However, Duncan did say that all medical expenses were being taken care of by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF).

Fifa vice-president and T&TFF special adviser Jack Warner assured the Express that the local football organisation would meet Lee’s financial needs.

“We sympathise with him and his family and we are prepared to take up all the costs,” Warner said. “We all pray for him and hope for the best. Luckily he is a young man and very strong so we are hoping for a full recovery.”

Warner visited Lee on Wednesday while T&TFF president Oliver Camps and general secretary Richard Groden also dropped by to offer words of comfort.

Several well wishers—including students from Lee’s alma mater Tranquillity and some USA team members—were turned back, though, as Warrick had drawn up a list of close family members and friends who would be the only ones allowed to visit so that her son could get some rest.

USA football team press officer Forrest Eber explained that his team was told by the St Clair administration that they would not be allowed to see Lee but he expressed his condolences as well.

“Obviously it is an unfortunate incident and the thoughts and prayers of the US delegation are with Lee,” said Eber. “And we hope that everything goes well for him. It makes you realise that it’s just a game. Although we were opponents on that day we are from the same team (of life) and we won’t like to see that happen to anybody.”

Warrick, who expressed her sincerest gratitude to the T&TFF and other concerned persons, is praying that Lee will be able to represent his country in the future.

“Football was always Marvin’s life,” she said. “He always wanted to play for the national team. The day that they gave him the captaincy, he was overjoyed.

“I remember he came home and said, ‘Mommy, I get it you know’. I asked, ‘What?’ and he said, ‘The captain’s armband’. He was so proud.”

Lee, whose ability to maintain a high standard of performance under pressure was a key factor in his being named team captain by coach John Granville, also represented the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Under-20 football team. He had planned to join the army soon.

It is a dream that his mother hopes he will still one day realise.

Soca Warriors in Guatemala warm-up

THE Trinidad and Tobago football team will attempt to re-open the Hasely Crawford Stadium in style today when they face Guatemala in a warm-up match from 8 p.m.

National senior team coach Ian Porterfield will use tonight’s game as a dress rehearsal for his team’s 2002 World Cup qualifier next Wednesday away to Costa Rica. T&T take on the Central Americans in Tegucigalpa from 8 p.m. (Costa Rica time) which is 9 p.m. in T&T.

Today’s game will be the first match to be played by the Soca Warriors at the newly refurbished stadium since they edged Mexico 1-0 on July 23, 2000. The stadium subsequently closed its doors for renovations.

Porterfield will have his full complement of overseas-based players to choose from as European domestic football competition is suspended this weekend owing to World Cup competition in that zone.

This evening’s match will be the first time both teams have met since the 2000 US Gold Cup competition when T&T won 4-2 in Los Angeles with goals from Russell Latapy, Arnold Dwarika, David Nakhid and Dwight Yorke.

The last time T&T hosted Guatemala was on October 6, 1996 during 1998 World Cup qualifying competition. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in that match-up at the National Stadium.

Winger Evans Wise, who was included in the squad for this evening’s game, was ejected from that qualifier shortly after being introduced as a substitute. Anthony Rougier, Angus Eve, Latapy and Yorke were also in the line-up for that game as well and they will all be trying to earn a more positive result for the locals this evening.


T&TFF honour John Alleyne


Trinidad and Tobago’s footballers are hoping to get things right when they tackle Guatemala in a warm-up match from 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

The match coincides with the opening ceremong for the newly refurbished 23,000-seater stadium, a gala event featuring entertainment by several local acts. The launch of Ronnie McIntosh’s new football song is also scheduled to start an hour prior to kick-off to be followed by an award function in honour of long-standing football administrator, John Alleyne.

Alleyne, who turned 79 on March 21, has had 60 years in local football. FIFA vice-president Jack Austin Warner announced that a 20-month pension to the value ofs $5,000 per month is being offered to the former South Zone president.

Warner also called on the public to take the opportunity to see the national players at affordable prices. Tickets for the match, which have been priced at $50 for grounds and $100 for stands, go on sale from tomorrow morning at the venue. According to Warner: “It’s the cheapest prices you will ever see at these games for a long time. Don’t say you were not warned.”

The match against Guatemala is being used as a prep for next Wednesday’s important away World Cup clash against Costa Rica. With T&T having met Costa Rica three times in World Cup campaigns, the technical people were all agreed that Guatemala will provide an accurate assessment of what to expect in a match against the Costa Ricans.

At a media conference held yesterday at the Crowne Plaze Hotel, the senior Soca Warriors called on the public to come out in large numbers to support them.

Present were footballers Stern John (Nottingham Forest), Evans Wise (SV 07 Elversberg), Russell Latapy (Hibernian), Shaka Hislop (West Ham) and Reynold Carrington (W Connection). Latapy called for support, while Carrington added that this is the first time in a long time that fans will have the opportunity to see a full-strength Trinidad and Tobago team in action outside of a World Cup match.

National Coach Ian Porterfield is hoping to use the match as a necessary confidence-booster leading up to the tough battle in a hostile environment that the Costa Rica encounter is expected to be.

“Next week’s match is very important to our World Cup campaign,” Porterfield said yesterday, “and we are calling for supporters to get behind the team. We got off to a disappointing start against Jamaica where unfortunately we did not get the result we needed.”

He added that he felt his charges had the necessary quality to beat any of the teams in the competition
and what was needed was for the players to show a little bit of character.

The coach defended his inclusion of Germany-based Evans Wise in the squad on the grounds that the team needed to strengthen up its left side. He noted that left-sided Switzerland-based Jerren Nixon had shown himself to be unfit when he last played and could scarce perform for more than 20 minutes of a match.

Costa Rica top U-20s

COSTA RICA emerged surprise champions of the Football Confederation Under-20 World Cup qualifiers yesterday evening after a 1-1 draw with the United States at the João Havelange Centre of Excellence.

Both teams ended on seven points and the Costa Ricans edged out their North American counterparts for the title by virtue of a slightly better goal difference.

However, both teams will go on to the 2001 Argentina World Youth Cup along with the other zonal representatives, Jamaica and Canada. The US team, without inspirational player Landon Donovan who left to join the US senior team on Wednesday morning, conceded the first goal to a fine freekick from Johel Fajardo.

However, they managed an equaliser through DC United player Bobby Convey. The game was followed by an unofficial third-place playoff between Trinidad &Tobago and Guatemala.

Latapy: It's crunch time
By Gregory Trujillo

TRINIDAD and Tobago football captain, Russell Latapy, says he will now devote all his time to the national team qualifying for the 2002 World Cup Finals in Korea/Japan instead of Scottish Premiership side Hibernian where his professional career is on shaky ground.

Latapy's contract at Hibs ends this season and the club has already said it cannot match the offers of clubs, which have expressed keen interest in him.

"What's important now is the national team," he stressed at a press conference yesterday at Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain, ahead of his team's friendly "warm-up" international against Guatemala tomorrow to mark the opening of the refurbished Hasely Crawford Stadium at Mucurapo.

"We took a lot of criticism after the opening game in Jamaica (T&T lost 1-0) which is quite normal, but I must say that nobody wants to qualify more than the players.

"We are doing our best and want the continued support from the association and the general public because that's who we're doing it for."

Latapy appealed to the public, "Come out in your numbers and keep supporting us. It's not always going to be easy, but the only guarantee is that we could give of our best at all times and that's what we're doing."

Last year's Professional Football League "Footballer of the Year" Reynold Carrington, also called on the general public to come out and support the Soca Warriors. "I think that the game on Saturday against Guatemala is very important and we need the entire country to rally around us," he said.

"It is a good opportunity especially in our homeland that we could have a game of such importance where the entire team will be present," he said. adding, "it has been far too long that we have waited on this opportunity that we could get our team together prior to important games like the one on Wednesday against Costa Rica."

He said it is nice to have a refurbished stadium with a very good playing field. "My hope is that we could go out and do our best and have it christened in the right way." National coach Scotland-born Ian Porterfield said he hoped T&T could go to Costa Rica and, "get the result we know we need."

"I firmly believe that we've got the material," he added. For T&T, tomorrow's friendly against Guatemala could be used as a yardstick as to what to expect from the Costa Ricans as it took them (Costa Rica) three matches before they could get past the Guatemalans to advance to the final qualifying stage.

It will be the first time in a long while T&T will be running out in a warm-up match at home with a squad made up of the best players available.

The match will also be held in honour of southernerJohn Alleyne, who devoted 60 of his 79 years to football in the country.

"We will give Alleyne a pension for 20 months in the first instance at $5,000 a month and after 20 months if he is still alive we will review that situation," said Jack Warner, vice president of FIFA.

Yorke goes after final part of dream

Dwight Yorke has one major achievement to accomplish before he can state emphatically that he has fulfilled his biggest dream in life which to play in a World Cup Finals for Trinidad and Tobago.

The 29-year-old striker admitted this in an interview at Hilton Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica last month. He also stated that it is important for T&T to attain at least a point in their second Final round 2002 World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica next Wednesday in San Jose.

Yorke said he had achieved part of his biggest dream by playing for Manchester United. "My biggest dream in life, I think I've achieved it in some way by playing for the greatest club and playing at a top level in my profession. But to put the icing on the cake is to take my country to the World Cup and lead them out there," he said.

He added that T&T wants to go to the World Cup in Japan and Korea and show the world they are capable of doing.
"I think being there is an achievement in itself, for such a small country. We are no way as big as Jamaica or Costa Rica but I think in terms of talent and ability I think we're up there with them.

"Actually, going to the World Cup would be an achievement but we just don't want to go there as a participant. I don't think any team wants to say okay we're here, let's just go there and play two games and go home. That's not the case at all.

" But at this stage we have to concentrate on one step at a time and that is to take this Group stage and do well at this particular time and if we can get through that then we're one foot in the door," Yorke said.

About the current qualifying tournament, Yorke said: "I think when you get to this stage in the competition, the start is so important. I always think that you win your home games then you're half way there.

And if you go away and get the odd point or get the surprise result away then I think you are going to be more successful than anything else. The game in Costa Rica will also be a difficult game for us.

We won't be too despondent if we can take a point away from home and then go back home and get three points against Mexico."

Yorke scored with his chest off an Ole Solskjaer shot in a 2-0 win over Leicester City last weekend which pushed United to 70 points, 17 ahead of second placed Arsenal on the Premiership table.

Latapy enhanced Hibs - McLeish

Hibernian manager Alex McLeish came in for some harsh blows on the weekend from members of the Scottish Press for leaving Russell Latapy out of his team which went on to lose 0-2 to Dunfermline Athletic.

While the "Little Magician" seems very likely to be part of another club next season, McLeish did not hide from the fact that the T&T captain has been a major influence in the club's success since he joined in

"The wee man has been fantastic for us, it's been a wonderful two-and-a-half years. He's been a star for the club and enhanced the quality of football, the sort of football the Hibs fans have drooled over in the past with the Famous Five and the Pat Stanton era.

" I don't think anyone knew who he was when he arrived but they certainly do now. He has had a great relationship with the fans and everyone connected with the club, players, staff and particularly the fans, should continue to applaud and support the wee man as they have since day one," said McLeish.

The manager was of the belief that the midfielder was distracted by issues surrounding his pending departure from Easter Road, hence the reason for benching him on Saturday.

He added that the pressure is on Hibs to find a replacement for Latapy. "The job for me is to try to replace Russell with quality. It may mean a wee change in the style of play because I am well aware that anyone who does come in to play off the front will be compared to Russell," he admitted.

Up to last weekend there was no word on Latapy's decision. Celtic, Bradford City, Manchester City and Fulham have expressed keen interest in him.

Hibs are in third spot with 60 points on the Scottish Premier League table, behind leaders Celtic (79) and Rangers (66).

Hislop's goals still on course

Goalkeeper Shaka Hislop said he has always wanted to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the international level and feels that being close to playing for England has given him an overdrive in his career.

Speaking in England during T&T's training camp last month, Hislop said he has always been proud of being a Trinidadian, despite strongly considering the chance to play for England.

This, while being a member of the Newcastle United club in the Premiership following a transfer from Reading in 1995.

"Yes, I nearly played for England and that would have been great. But I've always considered myself Trinidadian and I'm proud of that.

For me, it was always where I wanted to be. The England thing came unexpectedly, to say the very least and it was sprung upon me.

It was an opportunity I couldn't turn down at the time for professional reasons. It gave me a springboard in my career and thankfully it hasn't hampered my ambitions to represent Trinidad," said Hislop.

He mentioned that his form at West Ham does sometimes influence his performance for T&T. "My club form is what has taken me onto the international stage, so I always feel that if my form is good and my confidence high, I can take that into an international game. Once you find yourself on a winning team, the mentality will transform to another team," he said.

Glasgow in Kansas victory

Gary Glasgow gave a lively performance for Kansas City Wizards despite a 0-2 loss to Chicago Fire on Saturday in American Major League Soccer Spring training camp.

The national striker partnered American Roy Lassiter in front before being substituted in the 80th minute and was unlucky not to have put his name on the scoresheet in the first half.

Inside the opening ten minutes, Glasgow's one-timed shot following a Chris Klein pass, went inches wide of the left post from 14 yards out.

Glasgow then flicked a pass for Lassiter but his effort went just over bar in the 26th minute. Wizards continued to pile on the pressure and Glasgow almost sent them ahead in the 72nd minute when he worked his way into the penalty box but his shot narrowly missed the mark.

Three minutes later Fire opened the scoring and then got a second item in injury time. Glasgow was part of the T&T team which toured Brazil in February but was called back to the United States by Kansas management forcing him out of the World Cup qualifier against Jamaica.

Meanwhile, DC United head coach Thomas Rongen expressed delight with Travis Mulraine's signing last week saying: "I've been intrigued with Mulraine since I saw him at the Combine two years ago.

" He's a player who will potentially help us with depth as a defensive midfielder when (Ryan) Nelsen is away with the New Zealand national team."

The 23-year-old Mulraine, formerly of Joe Pubic was snapped up after being placed on the waivers' list by San Jose Earthquakes.

Rougier faces Bristol on Friday

Anthony Rougier will probably be the final overseas-based professional to join the Trinidad and Tobago squad for next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica because his club Reading has a home fixture against Bristol City on Friday.

The T&T defender will have to stay and represent his club because the FIFA five day rule for the release of player does not apply until Saturday. Coach Ian Porterfield said while he was keen to have all the players together as quickly as possible, he understands Rougier's situation.

Rougier played for 70 minutes in his team's 2-1 win over Wrexham which pushed them to third spot on the Second Division table with 67 points, five behind Millwall.

In related news, T&T English-born defender Ian Cox saw the full 90 minutes of action but his Burnley club fell 0-2 to Sheffield Wednesday in English First Division action on Saturday.

Burnley remained on 52 points in tenth position on the standings. T&T midfielder Ronnie Mauge saw action for 80 minutes as his Bristol Rovers club went down 0-3 to Rotherham United in English Second Division action. Rovers are currently in 21st spot with 37 points on the standings.

Sam back in training

Striker Hector Sam has resumed training with Wrexham following a double hernia operation in England last month.
The former CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh marksman has been out of action for some time after making a bright start to his career in England by scoring seven goals in just as many matches for Wrexham last year.

Sam is expected to start contesting for a place in the Wrexham line-up later this month according to agent, Mike Berry who was in Trinidad in early March. "Hector is slowly getting back to his normal self.

" He's started to do some work on the training field and he should be back in the squad soon " It's been unfortunate with him because of the hernia because he got off to such a great start before picking up the problem since last year and he's had to withdraw from action. "But he's been fighting and he'll be back," said Berry.

Berry also commented on Dennis Lawrence who made his debut for Wrexham on the weekend, coming in on the 84th minute.

"Dennis has fitted in very well into the Wrexham set up. He's well liked and he got a marvellous applause from the crowd on his first visit since being signed by the club earlier this month.
I reckon that he's going to be a tall hit here," said Berry.

John's Forest eye playoffs

Stern John's Nottingham Forest still stand a realistic chance of advancing to the English First Division playoffs and earning promotion into the Premiership.

That is the view of John's club manager David Platt following Forest's 0-2 loss to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
"We probably didn't deserve anything on the balance of play - but even though we've lost we're far from out of it.

We've lost a match. But other teams have slipped up as well, and in all probability the play-off issue will go right down to the wire.

I'll admit that we've got to put together an exceptional run if we're going to be in with a shout - and that run has got to start now," Platt said after the loss.

John played for 74 minutes and will now look forward to linking up with his national teammates for next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in San Jose. Forest are now seventh with 59 points on the table.

Shaun Fuentes is the communications officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation

Tuesday March 20th, 2001

Final warm-up for seniors

A full slate of foreign-based professionals will be on show at the refurbished Hasely Crawford Stadium on Saturday when Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers face Guatemala’s senior team in a final warm-up encounter starting at 8 p.m. The Russell Latapy-led team will take on Costa Rica in their second Concacaf final 2002 World Cup 2002 qualifying round game next Wednesday.

Some of the 12 pros called up by coach Ian Porterfield for next week’s game have already arrived in the country. West Ham United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, Hibernian midfielder Lyndon “Chubby’’ Andrews and Nottingham Forest striker Stern John arrived on Sunday.

Germany-based midfielder Evans Wise were expected late last night while skipper Latapy and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke are scheduled to fly into the country today.

Ronnie Maugé (Bristol Rovers), Ian Cox (Burnley), Clayton Ince (Crewe Alexandra) and Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham) are next in line, due in on Wednesday, to be followed by Livingston defender Marvin Andrews on Thursday and Anthony Rougier on Saturday.

Porterfield conducted a four- and-a-half hour session at the University of the West Indies ground, St Augustine yesterday morning and expressed satisfaction with the team’s preparation.

Referring specifically to the warm-up encounter against Guatemala, he said that it will be “certainly a good exercise for us and hopefully it will get us on the right road for Costa Rica’’.

“Obviously we are just looking forward to having everyone arrive home safely,’’ he added, “and get all the players focussed on what is a very important game for us on March 28.’’

Saying that it was “important’’ that the boys have already started coming home for the next game, he commented that it “gives the team more cohesion and togetherness and helps everyone to understand each other better which helps us to play better as well’’.

The team will train at UWI this week and wing out to Costa Rica on Sunday to face off against their hosts at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in San José from 8 p.m.

No-contest at Macoya today


TRINIDAD and Tobago will need to make almost 100 per cent improvement if they are to make any impression against an impressive United States team in the Concacaf Under-20 qualifying series today at the Centre of Excellence in Tunapuna.

The all-important clash takes place at 7 p.m. and will be preceded by an all-Central American meeting between Costa Rica and Guatemala from 5 p.m.

Anything less than victory against the Americans will see the Soca Warriors exiting the tournament at just the second hurdle. Immediately following the opening game on Sunday, Technical Directors Jim Kellman and John Granville gave the assurance that T&T will be ready for the Americans. But the evidence of Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-0 defeat at the feet of the Costa Ricans suggest that Team T&T will need more than just a “pep’’ talk from their managers to come up to muster today. Indeed, if the
locals were to hold the United States to a low score, that in itself would be a victory of sorts. In their 5-0 demolition of Guatemala on Sunday evening, the Americans displayed consistent purpose, high skill and clinical finishing.

Bayer Leverkusen’s American star Donavan Landon and Chicago Fire’s DaMarcus Beasley looked to be more than a cut above the Trinidad and Tobago college boys they will meet today. It is not overstating the case to say that on Sunday T&T were seconds slower to react than their Costa Rican opponents. Had it not been for a superb performance from goalie Kelvin Graham, who almost single-handedly stopped no fewer than half a dozen attempts on goal, the Costa Ricans might well have put double figures in their goals scored column.

By the time the second match of Sunday’s double-header was finished, it was quite obvious that this tournament does in fact belong to the Americans as has already been said in these pages and that the real battle is for second place. There seems little that Kellman and company can do in the available time to prevent the local fans from discovering that traditional gap between the Americans and our national teams has become a chasm this time around.

The fans should, however, expect more of a contest in the curtain raiser. Despite their thrashing by the Americans, Guatemala look good enough to give the Costa Ricans more than a run for their money.

T&T warms up vs Guatemala

Assistant Sports Editor

Trinidad and Tobago's skipper Russell Latapy and his teammates will tackle Guatemala on Saturday as part of their preparation for next week's crucial second round CONCACAF Zone 2002 World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.

The game will take place at the recently refurbished Hasely Crawford Stadium from 8 pm and will give T&T coach Ian Porterfield a final opportunity to finalise a starting XI and work out chinks which he recognised during the team's opening round 1-0 loss to Jamaica.

The Scottish coach was criticised in the build up to the Jamaica game for not seeking better opposition to test his squad. The team played matches against Grenada and club teams in Brazil and England

He also came in for some stick for not taking a stronger stand with the clubs of his foreign-based players, many of whom were absent from the games against the English clubs, the only period when Porterfield was in fact to have had them available to him.

This time though, with the future of T&T's campaign dependent on a good result in San Jose, Porterfield is taking no chances.

Latapy, who is expected to arrive in the country today alongside close friend Dwight Yorke, will lead the team against the visitors.

England-based Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Stern John (Nottingham Forest) and Scotland-based Lyndon Andrews (Hibernian) were the first of 12 foreign-based pros to fly in for the game. They arrived here on Sunday night.

Germany-based Evans Wise, who was called into the squad at the expense of Carlos Edwards, was expected last night while England-based Ronnie Mauge (Bristol Rovers), Ian Cox (Burnley), Clayton Ince (Crewe Alexandra) and Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham) are due on Wednesday

Scotland-based defender Marvin Andrews is due in on Thursday while former T&T skipper Anthony Rougier is due in on Saturday as his club has a crucial game on Friday.

Yesterday, Porterfield expressed delight at the arrival of the foreign-based players. "Hopefully, by Thursday, we'll be able to have a training session with most of the boys together in preparation for Saturday's game and our next qualifying match against Costa Rica," Porterfield said.

"Obviously we are just looking forward to having everyone arrive home safely and get all the players focussed on what is a very important game for us on March 28."

He added: "It was unfortunate that we couldn't have all the players together as much as we would have liked while in England. Now the boys have started coming home for the next game and that is important because the longer we train together the better it is for us.

"It obviously gives the team more cohesion and togetherness and helps everyone to understand each other better which help us to play better as well." Porterfield, who toyed with the idea of playing Venezuela in the build up for Costa Rica as well, felt that the Guatemalans were a good choice.

U-20s tackle US today

By Gregory Trujillo

IT will be make or break for Trinidad and Tobago Under-21 footballers today at Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Macoya.

The young Soca Warriors will be tackling the strong United States outfit in their second match of the qualification series for the World Youth Championships in Argentine in June. Kick off is 5 pm.

Following the game, Costa Rica will be looking for another three points when they take on Guatemala from 7.15 pm.
Both the United States and Costa Rica opened with resounding victories on Sunday, beating Guatemala 5-0 and T&T 3-0 respectively.

Wins today for either team will see both joining Jamaica and Canada as the four finalists from CONCACAF and leaving Thursday's final round of matches of academic interest.

"In all honesty, we have to win our two games, " said Englishman Jim Kelman, technical adviser of the Soca Warriors."We're prepared for the US."

T&T will have to put behind the dismal performance against Costa Rica when the players appeared to "freeze" because of the big occasion.

With that experience, the locals is expected to put up a better showing against the "Yankees" although the opposition will be tougher.

While T&T found it difficult to get into the Costa Ricans' goalmouth to create chances, the Americans had little difficulty in penetrating the Guatemalans' defence.

With the likes of professionals Landon Donovan (Bayer Leverkusen), Conor Casey (Borussia Dortmund), DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire) and Robert Convey (DC United), the US, under German coach Wolfgong Suhnholz, will be hard to stop.

T & T will be without the services of top forward, Josh Johnson, who has to miss one game after being ejected for retaliating with an elbow against Costa Rica.

T&T drops game to Costa Rica

The national under 20 team lost to Costa Rica 3-0  in qualifying for the world championship next year.

Lawrence loses on English debut
 Latapy is axed

Irving Ward,
Assistant Sport Editor

TRINIDAD and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy may already be paying the price for announcing his imminent departure from Scottish club Hibernian at the end of the season.

Yesterday, with no apparent prior warning or announcement, Hibs boss Alex McLeish axed Latapy from his squad for the team's Premier Division clash against Dunfermline. The decision took even the journalists covering the game by surprise as Latapy was not injury listed before the start of play.

There was, naturally, speculation that McLeish's decision may have been prompted by the "Little Magician's" mid-week declaration he would be plying his trade elsewhere next season.

Alas, the decision back fired on McLeish as Hibs eventually lost the game 2-1. Starting in Latapy's place yesterday was his compatriot Lyndon Andrews. But Andrews is no Latapy and he did not provide the spark in midfield Hibs desired and was eventually taken off in the 56th minute.

And the loss, if indeed it was an emotional parting shot at Latapy on McLeish's part, may yet come back to haunt him. Hibs following the defeat fell six points behind second-placed Rangers (66 pts), who also beat Motherwell 2-1 yesterday, and will certainly now be hard pressed in its bid to qualify for Europe.

Leader Celtic, inactive yesterday, remained on 79 points. Still, McLeish tried to deflate his crude decision to leave his T&T star out of the action afterwards, maintaining he made the decision for the betterment of the team.

"It's an insult to say that we didn't play well because Russell was out of the team - it's an insult to players like Franck Sauzee, Ulrik Laursen and Paul Fenwick who are also out just now," an angry McLeish told reporters when asked if his move was indeed a constructive one.

"Russell didn't play because he wasn't in the right frame of mine - he is unsettled, there is no question about that. I have to consider what is the best for the long term for the club." He added: "We (Latapy/ McLeish) had a very friendly chat and I told him that he would be left out because he had to be in the right frame of mind to play."

Latapy is still contracted to Hibs until the end of the season and cannot sign any pre-contract with another Scottish club, the main contenders being Celtic. But he has not signed any pre-contract agreement with any English bidders either.

McLeish also seemed unable to hide the fact that he was trying to look past Latapy, despite the fact that the club has left the door open for the T&T star to remain there. "We knew that playing Dunfermline would be a battling game and the wee man (Latapy) can win games for us," McLeish said.

"But we are looking for other people to take responsibility. His future's not here. He hasn't signed a pre-contract with anybody but he can't do that with a Scottish club."

McLeish did show a bit of wisdom though, noting that the pattern could not be continued, "I said that he wasn't in the right frame of mind for this game specifically but that doesn't mean that he won't play again in the future."

But Latapy and Andrews were not the only Trinidadians whose clubs struggled yesterday. In fact, only Dwight Yorke and Anthony Rougier enjoyed real success. Yorke's Manchester United beat Leicester 2-0 to move closer to the Premiership title.

Yorke came off the bench for the second half and deflected in team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's shot two minutes from time to put his team 1-0 up before Mikael Silvestre put the icing on the cake in injury time.

Rougier's Reading meanwhile edged out Wrexham 2-1 in a Second Division clash with the former T&T skipper playing the entire game.

However, the game was particularly significant for T&T defender Dennis Lawrence who made his English pro debut for Wrexham when he came on in the 86th minute of the game.

Lawrence's compatriot Carlos Edwards, did not see any action for the Welsh side though. Other than this, there was much misery for the T&T stars in England. Shaka Hislop's West Ham was downed 1-0 by Ipswich in the Premiership. In the First Division, Stern John enjoyed a full workout for Nottingham Forest but could not stop it going down 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers.

Ian Cox's Burnley was also shut out by Sheffield Wednesday 2-0, while Clayton Ince's Crewe Alexandra lost 1-0 to Portsmouth. However, while Cox played for the full 90 minutes Ince did not make the squad having been released early to join the T&T World Cup squad.

In the Second Division, Ronnie Mauge's Bristol Rovers was thumped 3-0 by Rotherham. In the Third Division, Clint Marcelle's Hull clipped Exeter 2-1, but the former T&T midfielder did not play.

T&T Under-20s ready for action

By Gregory Trujillo

THE future of soccer in Trinidad and Tobago will be exposed over the next five days when the Under-20 Soca Warriors exhibit its skills against Costa Rica, the United States and Guatemala for two of the four spots available to teams from CONCACAF for the 24-nation FIFA World Youth Championships in Argentina from June 17-July 8.

And, inspite of its limited preparation, the Soca Warriors are ready for combat starting today versus Costa Rica at the CONCACAF Centre of Excellence, Macoya, from 4 pm.

Two hours later the Americans, who are strong favourites having six seasoned professionals in their line-up, will tackle Guatemala in the second match of the double-header.

"We feel that the players are just about ready," head coach, John Granville said Friday. "All we need now is to concentrate for 90 minutes."

Granville said the squad has been narrowed down to the quality players and the public can expect a good showing since, "we have not played our strongest team as yet."

Dropped from the original 20 for today's game are goalkeeper Daurance Williams and defender Kevon Clement.
Olympic gold medallist, Hasely Crawford, was brought in over the last two weeks to work with the team as a fitness adviser.

Several countries have already qualified for the finals, including CONCACAF teams Canada and Jamaica.
Also in are Germany, Finland, Holland, Czech Republic, Ukraine and France (UEFA), Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Ecuador (South America) and Iran, Iraq, China, Japan (Asia).

After today's action, the tournament continues Tuesday with T&T opposing the USA from 5 pm and Costa Rican meeting Guatemala from 7 pm.

The tournament ends Thursday with the USA vs Costa (5 pm) and T&T vs Guatemala (7.15 pm) games scheduled.
T&T squad: Marvin Lee (captain), Junior Spencer, Michael-Lee Celestine, Scott Sealy, Devon Mitchell, Kevin Graham, Sean Cooper, Junior Joseph, Nigel Daniel, Wendell Joseph, Jace Peters, Josh Johnson, Collin Samuel, Damien Westfield, Shelton Williams, Marlon Sylvester, Kerry Baptiste and Jonathan Westmaas.

Soca Warriors try for ‘91 repeat

FROM 4 p.m. today at the Dr João Havelange Centre of Excellence in Macoya, the young Soca Warriors will attempt to transform the efforts of Dwight Yorke and Tobago-born coach Bertille St Clair into an obscure memory.

It has been a decade since Yorke—then a precocious teenager at English top flight club Aston Villa—inspired the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 football team to a Youth World Cup tournament.

The feat made T&T the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to qualify for a Fifa tournament and, ten years later, it remains the brightest moment in local football.

T&T open their campaign today against Costa Rica, one of Central America’s more dominant football nations, while the United States play Guatemala at the same venue from 6.15 p.m.

Both teams will meet again in the round-robin competition on Tuesday and Thursday at the Macoya venue.

The present Under-20 coach, John Granville, also hails from the sister isle but there is little else in common between his and St Clair’s quest.

While St Clair’s team successfully navigated themselves through three qualifying groups after 18 months and well nigh a dozen qualifiers, Granville’s Warriors need just three matches at home to decide their fate.

Still a positive result will be no less rewarding.

Granville and technical director Jim Kellman do not have the luxury of a Yorke while none of his team could claim to have the individual impact of a Jerren Nixon or Anthony Sherwood—the latter then being a capped national senior team player.

But his team lacks nothing in effort and attitude.

If the mazy runs and emphatic finishing of Yorke and company were the trademarks of St Clair’s outfit then it is the workmanlike efforts of stopper and team captain Marvin Lee and central midfielder Michael Celestine that epitomise Granville’s squad.

Straightforward and lively, they will either plough their opponents under or go down trying.

Up front, a dose of subtlety will be provided by the tricky Josh Johnson on the right flank and the cultured left foot of Canadian-born midfielder Jonathan Westmaas.

Utility players Nigel Daniel and Collin Samuel are also capable of pulling something from the hat as are Portuguese-based midfielder Sean Cooper and US collegiate midfielder Damien Westfield.

All players selected more for their ability to play with the team rather than carry it.

More often than not, their offerings will be aimed at the feet or head of Arima Fire striker Devon Mitchell.

Initially dropped by former head coach Peter Granville, younger brother of Granville (J), Mitchell has taken over the responsibility of chief goalscorer since his return to the team last December.

He will have his work cut out for him as the young nationals try to overturn a spell of eight straight games without a win.

Partly due to this worrisome statistic, it is the visiting US team that enter the Football Confederation tournament as a favourites.

But that is not to discredit the strengths of the “Yankees” who travel with a team boasting of eight professional players.

United States coach Wolfgang Suhnholz has built the nucleus of his team around their 1999 Under-17 squad who were losing semifinalists in that Fifa tournament.

Nineteen-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker Landon Donovan was the Most Valuable Player of the 1999 Fifa tournament—a first for a Football Confederation player—and he will again lead this squad along with Chicago Fire winger Da Marcus Beasley, who was also selected on the ‘99 All Star team.

Both are currently members of the US senior team as is 17-year-old midfielder Bobby Convey who was a revelation for Major League Soccer (MLS) team DC United last season.

Eleven of their squad stand over six feet tall including six-foot-one Borussia Dortmund striker Casey Conor who is likely to partner Donovan upfront.

The Costa Rican squad also has the benefit of several players on their professional club rosters.

Striker Armando Rodriguez has already shown his aptitude in and around the penalty area with a tournament best five goals for the “Ticos” in the qualifying rounds.

He will be Lee’s first assignment this afternoon as the young Warriors try to utilise home advantage and a hopefully vociferous Macoya crowd against the “Ticos”.

In the process, they will attempt to edge closer to a spot in the 2001 Fifa Youth World Cup in Argentina which starts in June. There they will meet their Jamaican and Canadian counterparts who booked their tickets for the tournament finals last month.

A place in Caribbean football history beckons.
 Latapy’s magic for Celtic?


TRINIDAD and Tobago midfield ace Russell “The Little Magician” Latapy may still be wearing a green strip in next season’s Scottish Premier League (SPL).

Even as Hibernian manager Alex McLeish crosses his fingers in anticipation of Latapy's decision, a horrific injury to Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov may have increased the Trinidadian’s value at Parkhead.

Yesterday Latapy’s local agent Wayne Mandeville suggested that Petrov’s injury—which came in a collision with the St Johnstone goalkeeper on Wednesday—is likely to have changed the structure of Latapy’s negotiations with the club in his favour.

Latapy, who turns a free agent in May, had been initially sounded out by Celtic as a possible replacement for experienced Slovakian midfielder Lubomir Moravcik. Moravcik also turns a free agent this summer and is yet to agree terms with Scotland’s most dominant club at present.

However, Celtic manager Martin O’Neill must now compensate for the loss of Petrov—who will be out until three months into the next season at least—and is likely to give serious consideration to signing the Hibs star.

Mandeville refused to disclose the names of the clubs who have approached Latapy or his asking price. He did say, though, that all the clubs were British and suggested that more than one of the interested parties would be playing in Europe next season.

Mandeville also stressed that Hibernian were still an option and Latapy has not signed any pre-contract.

“Hibernian are still leaving the option open for Russell,” said Mandeville, who claimed to have spoken to Latapy on Wednesday night. “The option he eventually chooses will be based on comfort and the financial structure of the contract as well as what he wants to do over the next three years.”

He confirmed that relegation-threatened English Premier League club Bradford City was also an option despite the fact that they are likely to be playing in the First Division next season.

“There are clubs who will be playing in Europe next year who have approached Russell,” said Mandeville. “Clubs who are financially stronger than Hibs and Bradford but I will not leave out Bradford. They may return with an even stronger offer.”

Hibernian’s negotiations with Latapy have been, for the most part, conducted openly on the Internet in what Mandeville believes is an attempt to sway the playmaker through their fan base.

On Wednesday, McLeish was quoted on the TeamTalk website as saying that the gulf between both negotiating parties was too large and he wished Latapy well with his future club.

In less than 24 hours, though, Hibernian director Rod Petrie was insisting to Soccernet that it was not over yet.

“Russell is still contracted to us until the summer and further developments are always open to us,” said Petrie. “We have certainly not closed the door or broken off talks in a fit of pique. Throughout this process we’ve had cordial discussions and both player and club have been completely open and forthright in our mutual dealings.”

There have already been tell-tale signs that Latapy would not be easy to replace.

McLeish opted to replace Latapy with his compatriot Lyndon Andrews for the start of their League match against ninth place Aberdeen but conceded that he had made a grave error. Hibs lost 1-0 to fall three points behind second-placed Glasgow Rangers.

“Perhaps I tried to be a little too clever,” said McLeish after the match. “But I thought it would work. I put in Lyndon in his place as I thought his pace and strength would open things up for us a bit, but it was a difficult night for us.

“The midfield area was packed at half-time and I had to bring Russell on. I couldn’t sit through that again.”

It is not the first time that McLeish has been forced to make a U-turn over the T&T international captain.

Last September, McLeish pulled Latapy out of his starting line-up after the playmaker had returned late from national duty but was forced to introduce him with Hibs trailing 1-0 to lower division Falkirk in a CIS Cup match.

Latapy responded with a double for a 2-1 Hibs win.

Of the US and the also-rans

THERE is every indication that, even before a ball is kicked, the Concacaf World Under-20 qualifiers will be a mad scramble for second place.

On Sunday, when the tournament begins at the João Havelange Centre of Excellence in Macoya, it will take all the heart and ability of the Costa Rica, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 teams to ensure that the United States squad does not transform them into mere “also rans”.

Riding on a rich vein of form and boasting an experienced roster, the American leave no doubt that they have the ability to do so.

Not that Costa Rica or Guatemala are to be taken lightly.

Led by striker Armando Rodriguez, whose five goals earned him Golden Boot honours, the “Ticos” (as the Costa Ricans have been dubbed by adoring home fans) steamed through the Central American qualifying group.

Guatemala was numbered among their victims but they are not to be underestimated if only for the technical ability of their players.

Trinidad and Tobago fans will hope that Guatemala’s failure at senior level does not have the effect of making their youth team even hungrier for success.

Clearly, though, it is the North Americans who are favourites.

In the 2000 Olympic Games and the 1999 Under-17 World Cup, the US were twice losing semifinalists—virtually unheard of for a Concacaf nation.

Four players stand out. They are DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire), Bobby Convey (D.C. United), Conor Casey (Borussia Dortmund-Germany) and Landon Donovan (Bayer Leverkusen-Germany).

On the US youth team which includes more than a few six-footers, it is the refined, effective attacking ability of Donovan that stands out clearest.

In 1999, the panel of Fifa judges in New Zealand voted Donovan as the most talented player of his age group in the world—another first for Concacaf.

No wonder then that Donovan marked his senior team international debut with a goal in last December’s 2-0 win over Concacaf superpower Mexico.

The Trinidad and Tobago defence will have their work cut out for them.

Donovan seems destined to play an active role in the US team’s 2002 World Cup ambitions while Beasley also performed creditably when making his debut on the left flank in a 1-0 senior team defeat to Colombia.

The Concacaf peers whom they will face from March 18-22 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium will be hard put to match the experience of this pair.

More ominous is the fact that neither of their four marquee players was in the US team on January 30 when they beat Mexico 1-0 in their own backyard.

Coach Wolfgang Suhnholz’s biggest challenge will be to incorporate his “stars”—who have been excused from their team camp due to club commitments—without upsetting the balance built through multiple tours and camps with his more low profile players.

Granville’s troop must seek to exploit the difference in wave lengths between the US collegiate players and the young fancy dons of the professional world.

Wise gets nod for Costa Rica

TRINIDAD and Tobago coach Ian Porterfield has drafted Germany-based midfielder Evans Wise into his squad for the forthcoming second round CONCACAF Zone 2002 World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in San Jose.

Wise is one of 12 foreign-based players called for the crucial game and replaces England-based midfielder Carlos Edwards, who played in the opening game against Jamaica on February 28.

The other foreign-based players called are Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, Ian Cox, Ronnie Mauge, Dennis Lawrence, Shaka Hislop, Clayton Ince, Lyndon Andrews, Anthony Rougier, Stern John and Marvin Andrews.

The players are expected to arrive here to join their local counterparts, already in training, from as early as Monday.
Porterfield will then select six locally-based players to make up an 18-man squad which will fly out to San Jose on March 25.

Speaking yesterday, Porterfield said he was keen to get the foreign based players involved in the build-up for the March 28 game.

"We have to get all the boys together as much as possible. I've spoken to all the boys and hopefully everyone will be here and they are keen to come back," he said.

He added: "We've wanted to have Evans in the side before but we there was some problems because he was called back to his club. He's only just signed with a new club and we had to understand that."

Wednesday March 14th, 2001

Hibs to clear the air on ‘Latas’

THE waiting game for Trinidad and Tobago international Russell Latapy and supporters of his Scottish Premier League team Hibernian may soon be over.

Hibernian manager Alex McLeish yesterday said that the fate of Latapy, who turns a free agent in May, will be known within the next two days.

“We’ll wait until Wednesday or Thursday at the latest and make a statement then,” said McLeish.

The diminutive midfielder has been a key figure for Hibs over the past three seasons and was again an inspirational force on Saturday when he created a late goal for teammate Tom McManus in their 1-0 Scottish Cup quarterfinal win over Kilmarnock.

It set up a semifinal tie against Latapy’s international teammate Marvin Andrews who represents Scottish First Division leaders Livingston.

Latapy had appeared to be on his way out of Easter Road after revealing huge differences in what he wanted from Hibs and what they were prepared to offer.

However, there have been recent indications that there may be middle ground after all.

Latapy himself expressed some hope after their weekend triumph.

“We are both moving closer and that’s the way negotiations go,” said Latapy. “Both parties have to move closer in order to reach a compromise. I am probably a bit nearer than I was a month ago.

“We are still some distance away but we are still talking and, as long as there is dialogue, there is hope.”

McLeish, as well as thousands of Hibernian and Latapy fans, will be hoping that an arrangement can be reached before this weekend.

 Spurs scuttle Hislop’s FA dreams

WEST Ham custodian Shaka Hislop’s dream of playing an English FA Cup final remains just that.

English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur made sure of this on Sunday as they dumped their London rivals out of the FA Cup with a 3-2 win at Upton Park.

Ukrainian striker Sergei Rebrov opened the scoring with a volley in the 31st minute but the Hammers struck back through a blistering freekick from veteran Stuart Pearce just before the interval.

Early in the second half, Hislop helped to keep West Ham on level terms with a brilliant save to deny Sol Campbell who was just inside the penalty area.

But Spurs were not be denied as Rebrov doubled his tally and an unmarked Gary Dougherty managed a third before the Hammers got a consolation item.

Hislop must now turn his attentions to the Premiership where the Hammers lie in 14th spot with barely a ghost of a chance to earn a European berth.

Demmin opens MLS account

WHEN US Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Tampa Bay Mutiny selected Trinidad and Tobago defender Craig Demmin as their first round draft pick, they were attempting to shore up one of the league’s leakiest defences.

They got a welcome bonus on Saturday night when Demmin grabbed a match winner for the Mutiny in a 1-0 friendly win over Premier Development League Cocoa Expos.

Demmin, who features alongside former US international Steve Trittschuh in the back three, grabbed the game’s lone goal in the 23rd minute after the opposing goalkeeper failed to clear from a corner kick.

Demmin is one of several Trinidad and Tobago players to see action in the MLS pre-season with ex-Defence Force striker Gary Glasgow (Kansas City Wizards) also getting plenty of playing time.

Defender Keyeno Thomas (Colorado Rapids), Kerwyn “Hardest” Jemmott (New York/New Jersey Metrostars) and Travis Mulraine (San Jose Clash) have also been used a bit more sparingly by their respective coaches.

Mulraine, in particular, has been an unhappy man of late.

The former Joe Public hardman is, at present, locked in contractual negotiations with his San Jose employers after expressing his displeasure with his current salary.

Public manager Richard Abraham told the Daily Express yesterday that Mulraine relayed his dissatisfaction to him over the weekend and is yet to commit to the final season of his two-year contract.

A check on the San Jose 2001 roster revealed that Mulraine has already been struck off the team list. It is left to be seen whether Mulraine’s stance—which has withered many an on-field opponent—will win out in the San Jose boardroom.

Stern help for Ince

CREWE Alexandra’s Nigerian goalkeeper Ademola Bankole has been keeping one Trinidad and Tobago international at bay for most of the season.

Stern John would have done his utmost to ensure that Bankole did not double his tally when Crewe hosted English Division One rivals Nottingham Forest in yesterday evening’s league fixture.

Bankole, who has been in terrific form of late, limped off the field on Saturday during Crewe’s 2-0 loss to Birmingham City with a calf injury. However, he still got the nod over his weekend replacement, former Defence Force custodian Clayton Ince, for yesterday’s kickoff.

John would hope to have significantly increased Bankole’s personal discomfort.

A tactical switch by Forest manager David Platt to three forwards has seen John return to the starting line-up and his output has been encouraging although fruitless on the personal level.

He would have loved a goal against Crewe to restore Platt’s faith in him before he begins the final season of his three-year contract.

Ince, who has just two caps for Crewe, will hope to benefit from his compatriot’s ambitions.

Latapy set to leave Hibernian

Russell Latapy will not be gracing the Easter Road pitch in Hibernian colours next season. The Scottish club's manager Alex McLeish announced in Scotland yesterday that the "Little Magician" will not be signing an extension to his contract which ends at the end of this season.

McLeish admitted that Hibs cannot match the offers that Latapy, the Trinidad and Tobago captain, has been getting from clubs in England. "We have been talking for some time now, and unfortunately we are still too far apart. Russell has received offers that Hibs cannot match, and we wish him well.

"He is still under contract, and I know he would love to go out on a high - there is still a lot to play for in terms of our upcoming Cup semifinal and our aim to secure European football through our league position.

"Russell will have a big role to play in these games. s"He has been a real star for the Club and I would urge everyone to continue to give him their full support," said McLeish.

Fans could expect to see Latapy with either Fulham, Manchester City or Bradford City next season. These clubs along with Scottish giants Celtic have expressed strong interest in Latapy.

Latapy told reporters in Scotland at the weekend he was close to making a decision. "I don't want to disclose things which have happened between myself and the club. When I make my final decision we will let everyone know."

McLeish also said a change in date in T&T's next World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica from March 24 to 28 will not affect his club. Scotland will face Belgium in a World Cup qualifier on March 24, meaning there will be no League action on that day.

The new date means Latapy and Marvin Andrews will be away from the club less than three days before their clash with St Johnstone. "There's no real problem, they've played midweek before and got back," said McLeish.

T&T teams embrace Soca Warriors title

By Gregory Trujillo

ALL three national football teams - Under-17, Under-20 and Senior - engaged in World Cup action, will now be known as Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors.

The announcement was made by Sandy Morrison, a director of Collier, Morrison and Belgrave Marketing (CMB), the company given the task of marketing football in T&T, at a press conference at the Cascadia Hotel yesterday.

"The key is to have one identity for all the teams," Morrison said.Two of the main objectives of CMB, Morrison revealed, was to maximise awareness and support at all levels of the game and to ensure healthy attendance at all games, especially at the World Cup Under-17 Championships in September.

Morrison also revealed that the Soca Warriors logo will be present everywhere" on TV, newspapers, billboards and all over T&T." He added that a musical identity will also be developed for the Soca Warriors. That piece is currently being put together.

Starting on Sunday, the Under-20 Soca Warriors will be seen in action in a World Cup qualification series against the United States, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

The two top teams in this tournament will advance to the finals in Argentina in June. T&T's final squad of 20 players was selected yesterday following the invitational series which also featured Professional Football League teams Vibe CT 105 W Connection, Joe Public and CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh.

That competition was won by the Eastern Lions with the Under-20s finishing in the cellar position Josh Johnson, Kevin Graham and Nigel Daniel all picked up individual awards for their performances in the mini-tournament.
Johnson was chosen "Most Valuable Player", Graham the "Best Individual Player" and Daniel the "Most Improved"player.

Midfielders Silvio Spann and Kwame Wiltshire, forward Teba McKnight and goalkeeper Cleon John were eventually dropped from the final Under-20 squad.Coach of the side, John Granville said his team had an excellent tournament.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the tournament was a a success," Granville said. "The competition was tougher and it was an opportunity for the players to perform in front of their supporters.

We achieved just what we wanted as we needed the players to play in different positions and see how they respond." Granville also confirmed that the team is focused, fit, committed and prepared for the visitors.

T&T Under-20 Squad: Durance Williams, Kevin Graham, Collin Samuel, Kevon Clement, Sheldon Cooper, Shelton Williams, Marlon Sylvester, Michael-Lee Celestine, Wendell Joseph, Marvin Lee, Jonathan Westmaas, Jace Peters, Sean Cooper, Josh Johnson, Junior Joseph, Scott Sealy, Junior Spencer, Devon Mitchell, Damien Westfield and Nigel Daniel

Latapy leaves door open

TRINIDAD and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy is apparently leaving the door open for Scottish club Hibernian to re-sign him to a long-term contract.

The 32-year-old midfielder - whose contract expires at the end of the current season ­ returns to the negotiation table with Hibs chief executive Rod Petrie, this week.

And, while there are several clubs interested in securing his services, among them English outfit Bradford City and Scottish Premier Division rivals, Celtic, the Little Magician gave Hibs a hint he may well be interested in ending his career in Edinburgh.

"We (Latapy/Hibs) are both moving closer and that's the way negotiations go," Latapy said on the issue in Scotland yesterday.

"Both parties have to move closer in order to reach a compromise. I am probably a bit nearer than I was a month ago. We are still some distance away, but we are still talking and, as long as there is dialogue, there is hope."

He added: "There has been interest from other clubs but I do not want to divulge which ones. The most important thing is to keep going with the negotiations with Hibs.

"The good thing is it has been very amicable. The reality is it is always on your mind, but I am just trying to concentrate on the football."

Latapy gave yet another display of his importance to Hibs on the weekend when he steered them into the Scottish Cup semi-final. He will now meet compatriot Marvin Andrews in the "semis" after the draw paired Hibs with the latter's Livingston.

Yorke gives Porterfield full support

Dwight Yorke says national senior team coach Ian Porterfield has the full support of the entire team as the country attempts to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.

The 29-year-old striker said in Kingston, this is T&T's best chance of qualifying for the World Cup and he and the rest of his teammates will be giving Porterfield their full support.

Yorke recalled how disappointed he was when Bertille St Clair was sacked as coach after the Gold Cup but he has now put that behind him. "I think it was more of a personal thing than anything else. Bertille was the guy who took me under his wings and made me a better person.

Of course I would have liked to play under him. But unfortunately that wasn't the case. "Things do occur in football as we all know and we just have to be strong and support Ian Porterfield."

Yorke revealed quitting international football did cross his mind after St Clair was sacked. "It did cross my mind but that would have been very petty and selfish of me.

I don't hold grudges against anyone. He knew how I felt. But at the same time I think I had the obligation to try to do the best for my country which is my flesh and blood. I want to do well and I think this is my only opportunity.

"I genuinely believe that this is our best opportunity of getting to the World Cup. It would have been a big disappointment from my point of view if I had not continued to try and lead my country to the highest level of football," said Yorke.

Latapy waiting

Reports coming out of Scotland on the weekend indicated a new deal for midfielder Russell Latapy is in the making.
Latapy told media in England last month that he was weighing his options closely as to whether he would sign an extended deal with Hibernian or move to England where Bradford City, Fulham and Manchester City had been expressing interest.

Following his assist which gave Hibs a 1-0 victory over Kilmarnock, Latapy told reporters he is closer to making a decision. "We are still some distance away but the good thing is that we are sitting down and talking.

"It is always a difficult situation because clubs try to do the best deal for themselves. Players who are out of contract try to do the best for themselves and their family. It doesn't matter if its football or any other job, you have to try and get the best deal possible.

"The good thing is that its been very amicable and there have been no disputes. "I hope that a resolution can be found soon. I don't want to disclose things which have happened between myself and the club.

When I make my final decision we will let everyone know. I am very happy here but I was happy at Porto, and had success at Porto as well, " said Latapy.

Rougier anxious

Anthony Rougier is looking forward to being part of the Reading line-up as they go after a spot in the English First Division.

Rougier had been out of the Reading side with an ankle injury for some time leading up to this country's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica. Following his recovery, he was being used off the bench by manager Alan Pardew.

Now that he is back to full strength, the former Raith Rovers player is keen to get back in full action. "Things have not been going too badly. I have not been playing much for a while.

The manager felt it wasn't necessary to put me under too much pressure because of how our World Cup qualifiers were coming up.

"He didn't want to shuffle the team too much. Obviously the team is good in that Division and even though I'm not playing, the boys are doing the business.

"Hopefully, after the Jamaica game I can go back and be part of the promotion push," Rougier told media.
Rougier replaced teammate Jamie Cureton in the 46th minute in Reading's 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday which stretched their unbeaten run to ten matches.

Reading is third with 64 points on the Second Division table, behind leaders Millwall (72 points). Rougier had a solid 90 minutes in T&T's defeat to Jamaica and will link up with his teammates later this month for the next World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on March 28.

Big Marv awaits Trini derby

Defender Marvin "Big Marv" Andrews will most likely have been paying special attention to one particular player if Livingston were to clash with Hibernian in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.

During the T&T training camp in England last month, talk was already circulating about a possible clash between Russell Latapy's Hibernian and Andrews' team in the Cup tournament.

Livingston drew its second round match with Aberdeen before winning the replay later in February. Andrews then played for 75 minutes in his club's 1-0 win over Peterhead on Saturday which booked its semi-final spot against Celtic. Andrews blocked a 54th minute effort by Robbie Winters on the goal-line to deny Aberdeen.

Hibs have been drawn to face Rangers on April 8. "We're waiting on Latas and Hibs. We want to meet them in the semi-finals.

They are the ones we want and we're sure we can beat them," Andrews said during having dinner on the same table with Latapy while the T&T team was at the Runnymede Hotel in Surrey.

"We'll see when that time comes, fellas I waiting you know, I'll mash him (Andrews) up," Latapy replied with a few laughs. Both men will no doubt be eager about a possible clash in the Scottish Cup final scheduled for May 26.

Mauge in relegation battle

Midfielder Ronnie "Ironman" Mauge blames his team's current position on the English Second Division standings on a failure to convert goalscoring chances. Mauge's Bristol Rovers is in 21st position with 37 points on the 24-team standings.

Mauge played the full 90 minutes in Rovers' 2-0 win over Bury on the weekend. Mauge said he's happy at Rovers, despite the club's current struggle. "I've still got two years left on my contract. When I broke my leg I signed a new deal. The club showed great faith in me.

"We're playing well but we're lacking goals. We haven't got the strikers up front to help us get the results we really want. We've not been able to get that extra which is necessary for us to get the victories," Mauge told the media last month.

Lawrence excites Wrexham boss

Midfielder Carlos Edwards missed Wrexham's 3-2 win over Cambridge United which took it to 33 points in 10th spot on the Second Division table.

"Following the match, club manager Brian Flynn said he's excited about having T&T defender Dennis Lawrence in his line-up after signing him for three years earlier this month.

"We have fought off illustrious teams for his signature. Dennis sees his football future here and we are delighted about that. For someone so tall, he has good passing ability and is well-disciplined. He has been an integral part of T&T's rise up the rankings," said Flynn.

Lawrence, formerly of Defence Force, said he was also excited about making his debut for Wrexham. "I can't wait to help Wrexham into the play-offs and then the First Division.

"I have played in Brazil, Mexico and the USA, but my desire to play for Wrexham is very special. I like the Racecourse ground - it will be fantastic to sample the atmosphere when I play there," Lawrence told reporters in England.

Shaun Fuentes is the communications officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.

Tuesday March 6th, 2001

Gut check time on road to Japan/Korea

Irving Ward Assistant Sport Editor

THE stakes for the 2002 World Cup Finals just got even higher for Trinidad and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy and his teammates.

Wednesday's opening final round CONCACAF Zone 1-0 loss to Jamaica-coupled with the other results in the zone-ensures that the journey for Latapy's men will be much harder than it was prior to the start of their 10-match campaign to reach Japan and Korea next year.

There is no need to panic just yet at such an early stage. However, the loss to the Reggae Boyz may have been a blessing in disguise for Latapy's men. Indeed, it certainly is a wake up call. Coach Ian Porterfield and his technical staff and players must now double their efforts if they are to break the country's World Cup jinx.

Twice before, in 1973 and 1989, the honour of reaching the world's biggest football stage has eluded this country when it seemed within reach. And, with what is arguably one of the most experienced and talented T&T squads, it will certainly be a tragedy if Latapy's men do not go on to fulfil their dream of reaching the World Cup.

It is almost certain, one feels, that failure to do so will have far reaching consequences not only to the future of the game here but to the country as well.

But what is the next move for Porterfield? The Scotland-born Porterfield, noting that the journey had only just begun, remained confident that his squad will get the job done.

Yet, with the United States beating Mexico 2-0 and Honduras and Costa Rica playing to a draw, T&T has quite a Herculean task ahead. As it stands now, T&T will have no alternative but to shoot for the maximum amount of points now attainable, 27. And there is little room for slip ups as well.

The USA and Jamaica are now the only teams with the potential of making the maximum 30 points while Costa Rica and Honduras can make 28.

It is unlikely that this is how it will play out and any combination of results can help T&T's cause. But, in what is expected to be a keen race for the three CONCACAF berths, Latapy's men can ill afford not to cover all the bases.

The quest to steady the ship must begin later this month when the team tackles Costa Rica in another tough foreign assignment in San Jose.

Like the Jamaicans, who nicknamed their National Stadium home "The Office" because of a proud 46-game unbeaten record over a six-year span there, the Costa Ricans are hard to beat on home soil.

However, Latapy's men must acquire a positive result then return home and fortify this with three home stands against Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica.

The Porterfield Plan

Porterfield's immediate plan, he said in an interview, is to hold a session with Professional Football League clubs to secure the release of the locally-based players to resume training immediately.

The coach has, on more than one occasion, indicated that the core of his squad should be based locally. However, judging from the team he put out on the field against the Jamaicans, it was clear Porterfield embarked on an experiment.

Having drafted Ian Cox and Ronnie Mauge into his squad for the first time and seen little of the pair, Porterfield inserted them into the starting XI.

He also made other adjustments, including using Anthony Rougier and Lyndon Andrews-both predominantly right-footed players-at left back and left wing respectively.

Also of the core of players who got him to this stage, Porterfield retained only Latapy, Yorke, Stern John, Angus Eve, Marvin Andrews and Dennis Lawrence in his starting squad.

Eve, the Joe Public skipper, was the only locally-based player in the side, Lawrence having signed a contract to join English club Wrexham. Five changes to a starting XI, playing away from home in a hostile stadium, is bound to have a negative impact on the side's performance.

The coach, however, begs to differ. "The changes didn't affect our cohesion in the squad," he said after the game. Noting that the team stood to benefit from the professional experience of Lyndon Andrews, Mauge and Cox, Porterfield stood by his decision to use them.

"I think it's good for us, being such a small country, that we can bring in players of that calibre because this gives us more strength in depth."

But the coach does have big plans for the men who lost their places, including Reynold Carrington, Stokley Mason and Clayton Ince.

"People like Mason, Carrington and Ince are important members of our squad because we're going to need a big squad to see us through the 10 games."

Selection challenge

The selection issue is one of the first problems Porterfield will need to sort out. While one recognises that the process is and was affected by the availability of the players, a team which is chopped and changed in the way it was against the Jamaicans could not possibly have been expected to click immediately.

So it was no surprise that Yorke and John did not get the service they expected up front from a new midfield fighting desperately to feel itself out. Also, Latapy and Yorke are undoubtedly the key players in the team's drive.

But Porterfield must find a way firstly, to relieve some of the pressure from the pair. Latapy's legs can no longer take him as long as they used to and both he and Yorke are going to attract the attention of many a defender during the campaign.

Using Andrews, yet to prove himself at international level, and the erratic Eve with Mauge-also just back from a long injury layoff-could not have achieved this in the opening game.

Bearing this in mind, it is also strange why Brent Rahim is not being given more of an opportunity to gain experience.
Should Latapy not be able to make a full 90 minutes-because it is quite possible that some teams may target the Little Magician- which player in the current squad can take charge of the middle?

Even Latapy - at less than his best or taken out of a game, as we saw against the Reggae Boyz - will be crippling to the T&T cause.

It almost makes you wonder why the powers that be dispensed with the services of former skipper David Nakhid, whose experience and ability to lead the team in such pressure situations would have been crucial at this stage.

John, meanwhile, is yet to fully recover from his knee injury. It is without a doubt that had he been back to his best, he would have converted many of the have chances which went abegging on Ash Wednesday.

In this case, one could have made an argument for the use of Nigel Pierre, who had a tremendous run of scoring during the tours to Grenada, Brazil, England and the Caymans and whose confidence must have been soaring in the build up to the game. He, however, never got a chance to take the field.

The defence once again played well enough, save the mishap which allowed Jamaican midfielder Tyronne Marshall to score his 18th minute winner, under a pressure situation.

Marvin Andrews and Lawrence remain the core of the defence and continue to prove themselves. They should work well in tandem with Shaka Hislop in future.

However Cox's favoured role is at sweeper and he showed signs of discomfort in the right back position before eventually being switched in the latter stages of the game, another sign Porterfield was still feeling his way around with his side.

The same could be said of Rougier, a predominantly right-footed player who was really asked to fill in at left back for the suspended Ansil Elcock.

It is also quite perplexing that there were no places for either Evans Wise-who had joined the T&T camp on tour before being allowed to return to Germany-or Jerren Nixon in a side which quite clearly is begging for natural left-footers.

Both men should be forced to perfect the left-wing role with Nixon being able to double up as a striker if needed. It is likely that they will figure in Porterfield's squad soon.

Ultimately, as far as the Costa Rica game is concerned, it is unlikely that Porterfield, given the short time he has to work with his squad between now and the March 24 meeting, will be able to settle all the chinks in the T&T armour.

His best bet then, it would seem, would be to get back to the tried and proven combination which took him through the first two phases of qualifying, at least initially.

A loss against Costa Rica would be a one-two punch which Latapy's squad may not recover from. Also, the foreign-based professionals should be made to fight for their places in this side - another factor which should force a 150 per cent effort from all in the cause.

For too long we have been forced to swallow the philosophy that foreign-based pros are the best options.
Yet, we have seen where some of our local boys are able to bridge the gap.

The perfect example of this has been Lawrence, whose efforts since getting his break last year have brought him an English contract.

Porterfield's men are carrying the burden of 1.5 million people. One may say, this is a small figure. Trinidadians will say if you are good enough to make the grade size does not matter. Good luck T&T.

T&T's Road to 2002 World Cup: (CONCACAF Zone Final Round)

February 28 -Jamaica 1 v T&T 0
March 24 -Costa Rica v T&T
April 25-T&T v Mexico
June 16 -T&T v Honduras
June 19 or 20-USA v T&T
June 30 -T&T v Jamaica
September 1-T&T v Costa Rica
September 4 or 5 -Mexico v T&T
October 6 or 7 - Honduras v T&T
November 11 -T&T v USA

NB: Home team mentioned first.

A football lesson at The Office


"PLEASE leave all knives, firearms and weapons of any kind outside the stadium,” pleaded a voice over the loudspeaker at the Kingston National Stadium.

It was, one feels, the Jamaican way of saying “Welcome to our National Stadium and please enjoy the football we have to offer”.

The date was Wednesday February 28 and the “Reggae Boyz” were about to face the visiting Trinidad and Tobago football team in World Cup competition at “The Office”.

It was Ash Wednesday—or, as the locals would say, “Ush Wednesday”—a time to start denying the luxuries of the flesh.

In Kingston, it extended to denying their visitors’ luxuries as well and Brazilian coach Clovis de Oliveira was pleased with the outcome.

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” he said beaming at reporters after the match.

He was clearly referring to the result as the actual 90 minutes, for the most part, was anything but wonderful.

A colossal crowd of at least 35,000 spectators decked in yellow and green greeted US-based midfielder Tyronne Marshall’s stunning strike in the 15th minute of play with a roar of delight.

But the rest of their afternoon was spent watching the Reggae Boyz contain Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke with a fair degree of comfort and entertaining themselves with spontaneous “Mexican waves”.

It was a competitive match as well as a crucial one for either side. But no one could realistically call it a wonderful game. That is not to take anything away from the victors.

The Reggae Boyz were without both goalkeepers, Aaron Lawrence and Donovan Ricketts, as well as striker Walter Boyd through injury.

Their star forward Onandi Lowe was ruled out through suspension, gutsy wingback Stephen “Shorty” Malcolm had been the unfortunate victim of a recent fatal vehicular accident and regular sweeper Shavar Thomas was in Canada participating in the Under-20 Youth World Cup qualifiers.

Star midfielder Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore was present but his mental condition was questionable after his part in the fatal accident.

Whitmore may still face persecution from the courts if it is discovered, as the police have claimed, that he was driving at the time of Malcolm’s death and he spent the two weeks leading up to the match training alone in the United States.

The fact that De Oliveira chose “Tappa” regardless of his emotional state was as much an indication of the state of his threadbare resources as it was of Whitmore’s undisputed talents.

As if that were not enough, the Brazilian coach suffered a further setback in the ninth minute when he lost Bolton Wanderers midfielder Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner after a clash of heads with rugged T&T defender Marvin “Dog” Andrews.

It were as if the gods themselves had offered up the Jamaicans.

“One order of a lean, Jamaican side with a seven-year unbeaten record—to go,” they said.

Their visitors apparently lacked the appetite.

Under those circumstances, Trinidad and Tobago coach Ian Porterfield should have considered a draw inadequate.

Perhaps Yorke and company paid too much attention to the stadium announcer and his plea for persons to enter the Office weapon-free.

Maybe, as Porterfield suggested, fate had belatedly decided to throw the “Boyz” a bone.

Not for the first time, though, it was the Jamaicans who were rewarded in full for their defiance.

Marshall’s right boot turned out to be just one of several lethal instruments at the ground on that Wednesday afternoon.

An alleged thief was armed with a knife and intentions of robbery when he was shot dead by a plainclothes policeman during the game.

Luckily for West Ham custodian Shaka Hislop and T&T’s 2002 World Cup aspirations, Marshall’s shot was not fatal.

As Porterfield rightly told the Trinidad Express on Friday, “the war has just begun” and there is a long way to go yet.

Despite their collective lack of creativity, T&T still showed the grit which had been conspicuous by its absence during their previous World Cup campaign.

Often tagged as a primadonna by Trinidadians, Yorke led by example and did fairly well with what little space that was afforded him by masterful Jamaican defender, Ian “Pepe” Goodison.

There were solid performances as well by midfield hardman Ronnie Maugé, defender Ian Cox—who, although a central defender, played well at right back—and lanky sweeper Dennis Lawrence.

Less reward came the way of captain Russell Latapy and right-side midfielder Angus Eve but at least the effort was there.

The deficiencies, however, were just as evident.

Porterfield admitted that his team lacked the cutting edge in the offensive third of the field but T&T’s problems do not start or end there.

On Wednesday, the superior preparation of the Reggae Boyz allowed de Oliveira to dig deep among his reserves and find players with the ability to perform at that level.

It is matches against the likes of Bolivia, Bulgaria and Romania that answer questions about promising players not nearly meaningless fixtures against Grenada, the Cayman Islands or second and third string Brazilian and English clubs.

Joe Public forward Nigel Pierre, for instance, has displayed good form in the red, black and white this year. But goals against Grenada—eliminated after just two games into their World Cup campaign—say little when your opponent is Jamaica or the United States.

Of the 15 opponents chosen by Porterfield for warm-up games since he took over the national coaching reins, not one was ranked among Fifa’s top 50 teams while just two—Canada (63rd) and Cuba (78th)—figure in the world’s best 100 teams.

This is the reason why talented players like Pierre, Brent Rahim and Carlos Edwards are still considered to be too inexperienced while Jamaica can confidently field players like 21-year-old goalkeeper Leon Gordon, 22-year-old Gardner and 20-year-old Ricardo Fuller—all of whom played against T&T.

Perhaps a lot was also revealed at practice on the eve of the match.

The Jamaicans trained aggressively at pace in the searing heat while the T&T squad coasted through their session which was marked much more by sweet smiles than by rugged tackles.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s remark that “practice makes the player; the game is the proof that you are a player” comes to mind.

There is more to Porterfield’s method that raises the eyebrow.

When questioned about T&T’s game plan—two days after the defeat—he offered a curious “When we have the ball, we play football; when we don’t, we pressure to get it back”.

One hopes that comment was merely the usual “stay out of my business” approach he has so often taken when dealing with the media and the general public. It made the T&T technical staff quite unpopular in Jamaica.

It would take much more guile than that from Porterfield if T&T are to avoid the World Cup misfortunes of the past.

He would do well to heed the advice one Jamaican offered this reporter .

“Trini bwoy, your side nah bounce back good oonoh,” he said with great sincerity. “That ah oonoh problem. And nobody nah fear yuh yard neither.

“Nobody nah come inna Jamaica and feel ah easy game dat. But dem feel that when they come Trini, dem sure dem can tek three points.”

Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) president Captain Horace Burrell also offered an interesting observation when he explained the real reason behind Wednesday’s 1 p.m. kick-off time.

“A game under those (hot) conditions,” he explained on the Talking Sports television programme on the eve of the match, “calls for total concentration, discipline and dedication. And we believe that we have the edge on our opponent when it comes to these characteristics.”

There was no member of the T&T entourage on the panel to respond as, according to the host, the T&TFF press officer had declared himself unavailable.

But there is still time for the boys in red, white and black to find a way to eliminate T&T’s perceived shortcomings.

Failure to do so would mean yet another unsuccessful World Cup campaign.

Friday March 2nd, 2001

T&T drop first game

Trinidad and Tobago dropped there first game of World Cup qualifiers to Jamaica 1-0. There next game will be versus Costa Rica on the road.