Friday 10 March 2017
Three weeks of coaching, interrupted by the Carnival break, Dennis Lawrence will today put his local-based players to the test against Barbados in a friendly from 7pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Lawrence selected a 22-man squad, seven of them debutantes, for his debut outing as coach of Trinidad and Tobago, the national team he debuted for, as a player, seventeen years ago.
But the plan, for the 42-year-old former Wigan Athletic and Everton assistant coach, is to identify who are worthy of selection for crucial FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Panama and Mexico on 24 and 28 March, respectively, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
"Like I said, it will be exciting for the players as they get the chance to show us that they are worthy of selection for the two World Cup qualifiers," Lawrence told the TTFA media on Thursday following his team's final practice session ahead of the Barbados friendly.
With tickets affordably priced at TT$50 (adults) and TT$20 (children) and available from 4pm at the venue today, the general public can witness first hand who they believe are deserving of the national jersey, though it’s really down to Lawrence and his assistants: Stuart Charles-Fevrier, Ross Russell and former England and Arsenal standout defender Sol Campbell, who will have his first close-up look at local-based players tonight after only arriving in Trinidad last night.
Assistant coach Stern John, meanwhile, has been given time off during his time of bereavement following the passing of his 19-year-old daughter Nikela yesterday.
John was captain when T&T defeated Barbados 4-0 in the last meeting between the two nations in a World Cup qualifier in October 2011. Hughtun Hector, who scored the final goal, remains the only surviving player from that playing squad along with goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
Today, Lawrence will be without goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and defender Carlyle Mitchell though injury, while wingers Tyrone Charles and Nathan Lewis are away on club duty with San Juan Jabloteh in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship—the region’s qualifier tournament to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Defenders Radanfah Abu Bakr and Julius James, who are hoping to secure fresh contracts in Estonia and the United States, respectively, are unavailable, while unattached former Thailand-based defender Seon Power was recently added to the training squad but lacks match fitness and was left out for the Barbados test.
The new faces selected by Lawrence are Defence Force forward Jamille Boatswain, Police FC forward Jameel Perry, North East Stars defender Taryk Sampson, W Connection defender Jesus Perez, St. Ann’s Rangers winger Jomoul Francois and Club Sando duo Jared London and Akeem Humphrey.
Carlos Edwards, 38, is the veteran of the squad. The 2006 World Cup teammate of Lawrence has been selected among goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel (North East Stars), Daneil Cyrus, Alvin Jones, Tristan Hodge, Maurice Ford (all of W Connection), Curtis Gonzales, Hashim Arcia (both of Defence Force), Leston Paul, Sean De Silva, Darren Mitchell, Keron Cummings (all of Central FC), and Akeem Roach (Club Sando).
“From a commitment point, they have given enough focus and attention to the work that we have tried to do," added Lawrence.
"Now it’s just about execution and it’s for the players to go out and concentrate on the work that we’ve done also go out there and deliver.
“The idea is to make sure that everybody gets a good portion of the game [against Barbados] because I think it’s only fair with the work being done, to give them the opportunity to present themselves and say to myself and say to Trinidad and Tobago that they are ready for selection come March 24 and 28.”
Barbados, who took up the game after Suriname pulled out, are currently ranked 156th in the world by FIFA while T&T are 84th.
T&T 22-man squad
GOALKEEPERS: Marvin Phillips (Morvant Caledonia United), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars);
DEFENDERS: Carlos Edwards (North East Stars), Daneil Cyrus (unattached), Alvin Jones, Jesus Perez, Tristan Hodge, Maurice Ford (all of W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Taryk Sampson (North East Stars);
MIDFIELDERS: Leston Paul, Sean De Silva, Keron Cummings, Darren Mitchell (all of Central FC), Jared London, Akeem Humphrey (both of Club Sando), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Jomoul Francois (St Ann’s Rangers);
FORWARDS: Hashim Arcia, Jamille Boatswain (both of Defence Force), Akeem Roach (Club Sando), Jameel Perry (Police FC)