TT football enthusiast and contributor Earl “Mango” Pierre believes changes need to happen in local football. He highlighted poor decision making by the national senior men’s technical staff, the lack of investment in locally based players and the poor running of the TT Football Association (TTFA) as key areas of concern.
Pierre, who helped form the TT Players Association in Brooklyn, New York in 1992 to honour players, coaches and managers, was devastated by this country’s showing at the 2019 Gold Cup.
After a 2-0 loss to Panama in the first match, the TT coaching staff made a number of changes to the starting XI for the team’s next match against USA. The changes did not seem to work as TT suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat and left the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Guyana.
“I am mostly disappointed in the team selection where some players were playing out of position like Levi Garcia. He is a winger, instead they have him playing forward,” Pierre said.
He was also not pleased that two of the team’s most talented players came off the bench against USA. “I was very confused and did not understand why Joevin Jones came on at that time of the game and also (Kevin) Molino. They are two of the most important players that should be on the field.”
Pierre said if it was not for the heroics of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip TT would have conceded ten goals and he criticised Cordell Cato, saying he is not playing at a high standard.
Following the loss to USA, Pierre said the head coach should refrain from throwing his players under the bus. “This is the second time around coach Dennis Lawrence is blaming our players for losing games. Two years he is in charge of the team and he can’t identify our best players from home and abroad and he used to be a recruiter for the Belgium national team. He took one lone striker (Shahdon) Winchester to the Gold Cup.” He said it is time for changes, as the coaches are unclear with the team’s direction. “There were so many changes in the team after one game. The technical staff is guessing after all this preparation, they need to go.”
Pierre said the coaches and players can’t take all the blame for the poor performances, as he believes Stuart Charles-Fevrier should have been hired as head coach and Lawrence should be learning under Charles-Fevrier. Discussing how the TTFA is being run he said, “Transparency and accountability (is not where it should be), hence the reason corporate TT doesn’t get involved. The TTFA can’t be trusted. You fired the number one coach (Stephen) Hart who was doing a marvellous job.”
The national team has a history of poor finishing. Despite the joy that TT brought this country at the 2006 World Cup, the team did not score any goals at the tournament in three matches. At the Gold Cup, TT only scored one goal in three matches.
Pierre, who played football at Long Island University alongside former national player Richard Chinapoo, has tried to encourage and reward prolific goal scorers. For the past seven years, the Players Association gives the top goal scorer in the TT Pro League $5,000 and football shoes of their choice.
Some of the players who have benefited from the most goals award are Devorn Jorsling, Marcus Joseph and Akeem Roach. “We want goals…the problem is goals,” Pierre said.
Going forward more locally based youngsters should be given more opportunities according to Pierre.
“We need to really get serious with our local youth players with respect to the real professional training and stop depending on the players that are playing professional abroad. They don’t always give 100 per cent and I don’t blame them, because if they get seriously injured that is it for them with their professional career. The local players will always give 100 per cent and more because they are trying to make it professional abroad.”