THE TT men’s senior football team will be selected by coach Terry Fenwick on Wednesday.
A burst of youthful talent is favoured to dominate the 23-man unit as they gear up for their first international match, in over 13 months, against the USA on January 31, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
The team complete their two-day quarantine at the Home of Football in Couva, on Wednesday, and depart en route to Orlando on Thursday. They will fly to Guyana and then to Miami. From there, the squad have an over two-hour coach ride to their hotel in Orlando.
“We’re brand new. We’re young. I’ve got two or three players in the squad that give me a little bit of experience and that are older. My starting XI will be quite young. But they’ve been working hard,” Fenwick said before Tuesday’s training session at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
The former English player sees the clash against USA as an important warm-up ahead of the squad’s opening World Cup qualifying match against Guyana on March 25. This game will be TT’s first since Fenwick replaced Dennis Lawrence as men’s team coach in January 2020.
During his stay in the US, the national coach will link up with several foreign-based TT players. Although he hasn’t seen them on the training ground, he will use this trip to have some one-on-one time with these players in an effort to find out what qualities they bring to the team.
“I have got a lot of belief and confidence in the young players that we’ve had in the last year. I am a big believer in what you put in is you get out and we’ve worked hard and we’re structured and well organised and we’re better than anything else on the island here and my priority is Guyana on March 26,” he added.
Fenwick sees the USA clash as a “big call” and it serves as his first match at the helm of TT football. He quelled naysayers who describe his choice of opposition as “too tough” and said this was the chance that young players needed.
Throughout the pandemic and the now buried legal wrangling between FIFA and the TT Football Association during 2020, Fenwick scouted internationally for potentially younger prospects.
Fenwick communicated with over 325 TT players over the past year and he believes the youth are key to TT’s return to the competitive circuit.
“Guys that we have training with us on the ground now are the best of the bunch. They’ve done a terrific job. Fitness levels are very good and it’s a much younger squad than TT have had for quite a while,” he said. The 61-year-old coach hails the US team as probably “the biggest brand in Concacaf football” and was unimpressed with the likes of returning to the competitive stage against lowly Anguilla.
All the players he will select have come through the national youth system and represented at various tournaments. According to him, TT needs to look at world football, observe its evolution and place more emphasis on the younger bracket of footballers.
He again lamented that football has resumed, under strict covid19 guidelines, in several countries throughout the world, while TT is yet to make a return. Fenwick pleaded for leniency for domestic football.
“We are still without TT Pro League and Super League football. There’s no football on the ground, not even schools football. It’s been horrible for the last 18 months but the rest of the world has been playing football, and indeed in the rest of the region local leagues are competing, and we’re not doing that in TT,” he said.
He has, however, recognised 12 UK-based TT players who cannot yet travel. It is his intent to get them to TT in time for the World Cup qualifiers to create a fusion of much-needed top quality players.
When the squad returns from the US, Fenwick is hoping to have a three-team tournament including two of the teams from the Caribbean region to play on local soil.
“We have to get on our feet again and find our way again. We’re hoping we can come back full of confidence. We know it might be difficult for us but we’ve got to stick together as a team on and off the field of play. We’ve got a wonderful passion and commitment and team spirit going on already and I want us all fighting together for the right reason,” he said.
While he is pleased with the support received so far, Fenwick hit out against those against the national team’s progression.
“We’ve trained all year and the only side that didn’t participate was La Horquetta Rangers that will not allow their players to play with the national team. That is the politicking that we’ve got going on in the background that people out there should know,” he closed.