TRINIDAD AND Tobago football is at its lowest point ever and in dire need of divine intervention in all aspects of the game.
So says Brian Williams, former 1989 Strike Squad defender, who believes the future of TT football lies within the creative minds of ex-national players, who wish to one day, return the Soca Warriors to being one of the region’s most feared teams.
The 59-year-old dubbed TT’s “disappointing” exit from the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers as a cause for “major concern” and called on former players to come together with the sole intention of reversing the team’s downward spiral.
Williams made these remarks following TT’s 0-0 result against Bahamas on Saturday, which saw them unable to advance to the next Concacaf qualifying round and omitted from 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification.
“The major concern is where do we go from here?" asked Williams on Sunday. "The way we went out was embarrassing. People are disappointed. It was difficult for me to even carry high expectations for us to qualify for the World Cup.
“We are expected to go past teams like Bahamas. I think we got to look seriously in rebuilding our football. It cannot get any lower than this I think. We’re down and we need to get back up.
“We got to rebuild and put things in place with the footballing minds that we have available. Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, Dennis Lawrence, Shaka Hislop, Brent Sancho, Clayton Morris, David Nakhid, myself and other footballing minds of the future have to come together,” he said.
Williams, a past national men's team assistant coach and former TT Under-20 men’s coach, called on coach Terry Fenwick and the players to accept total responsibility for the upsetting result which ended all hopes of the nation’s presence at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
While he thinks that last year’s legal wrangling between the TT Football Association (TTFA) and FIFA, the challenges which followed (with FIFA appointing a normalisation committee to oversee the TTFA's affairs) and the covid19 pandemic may have had negative impacts on the team's preparations, Williams does not believe these issues should be used as scapegoats for the squad’s poor performance.
Prior to the Bahamas draw on Saturday, TT defeated Guyana 3-0 (March 25) and drew 1-1 against Puerto Rico (March 28) in their other Group F qualifiers. St Kitts/Nevis, however, won all their three matches to date and, with an unassailable nine points, they will advance to the next stage of competition, despite the outcome of their final group clash against TT on Tuesday. The TT-St Kitts/Nevis match will take place at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Williams said, “I coach the game but I didn’t see any enthusiasm and drive by the players. You’re not seeing the players trying to play in some way to really win a football game.
“We got take responsibility, even as coach. Fenwick has to answer and take responsibility like everyone else. The coach, more so, is responsible for a team’s performance.
“When I looked at the game I saw nothing. All of us who represented the country and have it at heart were totally embarrassed with what we saw on Saturday. We have to get together and put our football administratively and in all other aspects, in place,” he added.
Similarly, former national captain and English Premier League striker Kenwyne Jones took to social media to voice his concerns on the team’s performance. He, however, was not critical of their showing but sought to encourage his fellow countrymen to find solutions to help TT out of its current footballing demise.
Jones posted to Facebook, “To my friends, past teammates, put aside your fan view for a moment and be proactive, get qualified in sport business and administration, coaching at all levels to ensure that we help develop our sporting culture and practices in this country.
“It’s no use sitting at home now being critical of what we see now if we're not actively trying to be a part of the solution.”
Having arrived at the end of TT’s 2022 World Cup qualification campaign, the squad will soon shift their focus to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
TT begins their Gold Cup quest against Montserrat, in a preliminary round match, on July 2 at the DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. The winners of this match will play the winners of the Cuba-French Guiana fixture on July 6, for a chance to join Mexico, Curacao and El Salvador in Group A.
The group stage will run from July 10-20, followed by the knockout stage (July 24 to August 1).
Looking ahead to the Gold Cup qualifiers, Williams does not see much room for improvement with just over three weeks to go. He questioned the team’s strategy going forward.
“We cannot carry hopes into the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is just a few weeks away. What do you see could be done in any meaningful to have a great impact in such a short space of time? What is our approach to this competition? We’re not on solid ground,” he said.
In conclusion, Williams agreed with Jones’ statement and believes all avenues of local football must be reassessed if TT is to, once more, return to being a formidable force in the Caribbean.
“We have to go deep into disappointment. And we’re here. We have to deal with the reality of things; how football has been going in TT, the challenges we had, the pandemic and how we can move forward.
“The talent gap among nations is closing but we are regressing. We should have been moving higher up the rankings (FIFA). What we need to do is to look seriously, including myself, to get involved to trying to assist the football and moving in the right direction.
“The answers are simple but several,” he closed.