Sol Campbell, the former England central defender, was brought in to the technical staff by national football team coach Dennis Lawrence almost exclusively for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign.
And, with the dreams to qualify for Russia virtually over, it may be up to Campbell to decide whether he not he wants to continue to be a part of Lawrence’s team.
Lawrence, during a media conference at the National Cycling Centre, Couva on Wednesday, was asked why Campbell only appears with the technical staff during preparation for qualifying matches.
“Sol Campbell was brought into the set-up, in particularly, to try and improve us in the World Cup campaign,” Lawrence responded. “Sol Campbell was not brought in to the set-up with the vision of improving Trinidad and Tobago on the long-term. Sol Campbell has a wealth of experience and I thought it would be best used in the short-term period, which was to try and achieve the goal of qualifying for Russia.
“In terms of the vision of the long-term desire, it’s a discussion I’m going to have with Sol whether or not it’s something he would be interested in doing. That was the main reason why Sol Campbell was allowed to stay in the UK and continue to develop himself as a coach, which he has been doing.”
At the media conference, Lawrence spoke about the 23-man squad chosen for forthcoming qualifiers against Mexico (away on October 6) and the United States (at home on October 10).
Experienced goalkeepers Jan-Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip were omitted, with Canadian-born Gregory Ramjitsingh earning a call-up by Lawrence.
Asked about Ramjitsingh, the TT coach pointed out, “I’ve been looking at Greg for a while. I had Jan, Marvin and (Adrian) Foncette (before). The thinking is all about going forward. I think (Greg) is in the prime time of his career and I think the opportunity has come where I can look at him and see what he’s got to offer for Trinidad and Tobago.”
Earning recalls were teenaged Dutch-based winger Levi Garcia, strikers Trevin Caesar and Shahdon Winchester (who played in earlier qualifiers); as well as goalie Glenroy Samuel, defender Triston Hodge, striker Akeem Roach and the midfield pair of Neil Benjamin and Jared London.
Admitting that Cordell Cato and Jomal Williams (who were both left out) suffered due to lack of playing times with their respective clubs (San Jose Earthquakes in the US and Murcielagos in Mexico), Lawrence stressed, “we need to be fair with the Pro League. If a player that is consistently playing in the Pro League and is doing well, it is unfair of me to select players that are not actively involved with their clubs, whether it be foreign or local.”
Lawrence also touched on the issue involving his assistant coach Stern John (also a player/coach at TT Pro League title-holders Central FC), who was accused by members of North East Stars last Friday of belittling their talents as well as their prospects of making the national team.
“Stern John played a game in the Pro League,” said Lawrence. “I received a phone call within 10 minutes of completion of that game and I was informed of certain comments and allegations that was made on the football pitch. Unfortunately I wasn’t given any time whatsoever to deal with the situation because there was a story was published within 24 hours (of the game).”
Since his appointment in January, Lawrence’s record, after 10 international matches, read two wins, one draw and seven losses (including his last six).
“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I put myself under,” he stressed. “When your work has direction and you know exactly what you’re going to do, you don’t put yourself under pressure. When you become a coach, you have to be sure of what you’re doing.
“We were in a situation that unfortunately we didn’t qualify for Russia, for many obvious reasons. The first place I started to look is myself, what can I do better (and) what can I improve. (With) regards to my experience as a coach, I didn’t think that was the reason why we didn’t qualify. I think it’s because of our performances. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Asked about the constant defensive breakdowns in the team, Lawrence noted, “That’s one of the key areas that we need to improve on. Defensively we have let ourselves down. The only way we can correct things is by working on the training pitch, to try to put right the things that are going wrong.
“That is what we intend to do, going into the Mexico game. We need to make sure that our development plan (and) process can try and eradicate some of these defensive problems.”
Looking towards the future, Lawrence said, “We’ve got plans that we’ve sat down and we’ve discussed. This discussion was before (and) during my appointment. We’ve discussed the two-tiered plans which (were) one, we knew we had Russia so we’d give (it) our very best shot and then the second tier (was) how do we move forward in terms of developing a football philosophy for our country and in terms of how we’re going to develop players.
“We have not won anything in the Caribbean for the last 16 years, including the Caribbean Cup. I think that’s where our development process needs to start. We need to become more competitive in the Caribbean before we can start branching off in the Gold Cup and into the World Cup. The focus is to become number one in the Caribbean again, and then we can build from there.”