PRESIDENT of the TT Football Association (TTFA) David John-Williams says he had no part to play in Dennis Lawrence being selected as head coach of the senior men’s national team.
Lawrence was appointed on January 21, 2017 and has led the team to only six victories since then. He replaced Tom Saintfiet, who came in after Stephen Hart’s dismissal in 2016, but resigned 35 days into his tenure. The most recent win for TT under Lawrence was on Sunday when the team demolished Anguilla – FIFA’s lowest ranked team – 15-0.
Speaking with Newsday, at the W Connection head office, in Couva on Tuesday, the TTFA boss said initially, there was a committee responsible for choosing a coach and he was not involved. He said he “recused himself from the discussion” because one of the contenders was Stuart Charles-Fevrier – a long-standing coach of his club W Connection.
“A lot of people in this country believe that David John-Williams – or let me put it in the more common term – ‘DJW’ is responsible for Dennis Lawrence being the men’s national coach. Dennis had a two-year contract and let me add this – when Stephen Hart left, we had a technical committee, independent of me, to select all the coaches, shortlist and do a technical report.
“Then the rest of the board elected Dennis Lawrence as senior men’s national coach. They did not accept the recommendations of the technical committee. What happened after that? The entire technical committee resigned and felt that they were disrespected.”
Lawrence’s contract was renewed in February for two and a half years. John-Williams said when it was time for Lawrence’s contract to be reviewed, 11 of the 13 TTFA board members were present and the vote went ten to one.” The only person who voted against the renewal was Super League president Keith Look Loy.”
John-Williams said people in TT only see wins and losses rather than the “bigger picture” the administration is focusing on, which is financial stability.
“Unfortunately, we live in a society of instant gratification and (are) results-oriented. And we live in a society where we see in the English Premiership, where a man loses five games and they buss he throat. Because in the morning, you know what? I could go and pick up a coach in the morning. And that same coach who get he throat buss could go to a next team and get nine wins on a trot. But we don’t live in a country where we could pick up a men’s national team coach like that.
“We don’t have the money to fire Dennis Lawrence in the morning.”
In an official document obtained by Newsday, the money obtained by the TTFA via match appearance fees between 2016 and 2019 totals to $6,045,627.68.
“What do you prefer, financial stability or wins on the pitch?” John-Williams asked.
“Under this administration, we have been able to generate over $6 million in match fees for the men’s national team when nobody else could have done it. Go and compare that to the previous coach.”
He said he believes the team has always been well prepared under Lawrence, adding that Sunday’s win over Anguilla was phenomenal.
“Beating a team 15-0 whether they top-ranked or lowest ranked in the world is phenomenal. In any sphere of the world, that is quality that is performance. But you know what they will say? ‘It’s Anguilla.’
“We don’t have the finance of a USA, we don’t have the finance of a Mexico, a population of a Mexico, Costa Rica, Belgium, Brazil. We don’t have that.”
A source close to John-Williams told Newsday the administration is often criticised for choosing “difficult” opponents for friendly matches. But he said this is the only way growth can occur.
“The TT team could look good if we continue to play opposition like Anguilla and Grenada and St Lucia. So the choice in opposition could quell all the rumours and the talk and the banter. But the administration has taken a specific decision to say if we have to develop football, we must play harder oppositions. And if we say that, there’s a high possibility that we would probably lose. But the only way to independently and collectively grow is through that.”
But Look Loy said he believes John-Williams is making excuses as he piloted the extension of Lawrence’s contract. He said he still has not seen a copy of the head coach’s contract.
“That is absolute nonsense. That is a typical shirking of responsibility by the president of the TTFA. He is the chairman of the board of directors and therefore, ultimately the buck stops with him. He came to the board and proposed that we should renew it and arguments were made back and forth. I argued that he could not be renewed. I even offered a compromised position of having him appointed until the end of the (Concacaf) Gold Cup.”
“He can’t afford to fire him but he could find $1 million for the League of Champions which is in total chaos. You have 12 teams getting over $50,000 each then you have to pay for referees, commissioners, administration, travelling to Tobago, etc. It’s a matter of what you want to find money for.”
On November 4, the TTFA launched its League of Champions which runs until April 12. It will feature a number of teams who either opted out of the 2019 Terminix Super League or were deemed non-compliant, as well as a National XI (TT Under-17 team).
Look Loy said many of the arguments in support of Lawrence banked on him being from TT and that he should be given a chance since he’s “one of their own.”
“The appointment of the national coach doesn’t have to do with if we like you or what passport you carry, but if you could do the job and we could afford you.”
John-Williams will be aiming to retain his presidency in the upcoming TTFA elections on November 24. He will go up against Secondary Schools Football president William Wallace, and owner of Terminix La Horquetta Rangers Richard Ferguson.
The national team will face Ecuador today in a friendly match and they will go up against Honduras, on Sunday, in the Concacaf Nations League.