TRINIDAD AND Tobago men’s football team coach Angus Eve has already fostered a healthy working relationship with his players heading into Tuesday’s final Concacaf Gold Cup qualifier against French Guiana.
Eve was installed as coach three weeks ago and had just two weeks to prepare the squad for their opening Gold Cup qualifier against Montserrat on Friday at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States.
His appointment came on the heels of TT’s surprising 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying exit on June 5, under then head coach Terry Fenwick. Fenwick and his assistants Kelvin Jack and Derek King were sacked one week later.
Undeterred and inspired, Eve led the Soca Warriors to a 6-1 triumph over Montserrat and now gears up for his second official match at helm on Tuesday.
A victory against French Guiana on Tuesday guarantees a place for TT in the Gold Cup group stage which gets underway on Saturday.
Against Montserrat, second half substitute Reon Moore bagged a brace while Kevin Molino, Marcus Joseph, Ryan Telfer and Judah Garcia also got their names on the scoresheet for TT.
Moore, who made his Gold Cup debut in his fourth cap for the senior team, said Eve has quickly established a connection with the team.
“From day one, the connection between the coach and players was fantastic. He dealt with us on a (mature) level and we have a very good understanding. It’s more like we’re working together and not like somebody’s over your back with a big stick. So the transition is perfect,” said Moore after Friday’s win.
The Defence Force winger added that Eve’s five-day preparation camp – held at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva before the team departed en route to Florida – was short but well-executed.
He added, “It’s a great feeling. It all started from the training camp. The preparation was great and we transferred that into the game and we got the victory. It’s the training camps that we did, the preparation, knowing what the opposition would give, that made the game.”
Although he was not involved in the ill-fated TT’s World Cup qualifying campaign, Moore said he was confident and “had a point to prove” heading into Friday’s meeting. Against French Guiana, if selected, Moore noted that he wants to build on his performances.
Similarly, Garcia, who scored his first international goal for TT, was elated. He also showered praises on Eve for his never-say-die attitude and smooth ability to connect with a player.
The 20-year-old midfielder said there was some pressure on him leading up to the match but the coach was able to repress these feelings and get the best out of him on the field.
“The pressure will be there but coming up in the (training) camp with coach Angus was great. We had an excellent camp. From the game that we looked at with the team (Montserrat), we saw their strengths and their weaknesses. I think we focused on it and executed,” he said.
Garcia also credited Eve for his tactical foresight which allowed him to record his first-ever international goal.
On his achievement, Garcia added, “it was great. Something I’ve been dreaming about and wanting to have a long time now. The instructions from coach to me, was to go in behind the defence because they don’t like to run a lot. That’s exactly what I did and that’s how the goal came about.”
Likewise, Eve acknowledged the passion and commitment shown by his team to withstand the pressures of such a topsy-turvy season. This was also his first official game in charge of the the TT men's team.
The 49-year-old Eve, who is TT’s most capped player with 117 international appearances, will serve as the national coach until August 31.
“I feel very humbled by the experience. This is a new stage, a new experience for me. I do believe I prepared myself well for it through all the things I would have done. Through the grace of God I kept my composure through it all. I thought the guys really implemented what we did in training,” he said.
The coach added that it was important for the team to get going with a win after the “Terry Fewick era”. He said the team felt that they had a responsibility to the TT people to go out and give a good performance; especially after their unsettling World Cup qualifying exit.
Looking ahead to Tuesday’s match, Eve wants the team to maintain its momentum and secure the much-needed three points to affirm a spot in the group stage.
He said that TT may be without left-back Triston Hodge who suffered a groin injury against Montserrat. Also uncertain is Aubrey David, who was kicked in the chin against Montserrat, which gave way for Molino to open the scoring from the penalty spot. According to Eve, David received nine stitches.
Eve concluded, “Our goal is to first reach the group stage and then we will reboot and replan and go forward again. It’s most important that the job hasn’t ended, it has now begun.”