Tom Saintfiet has made waves with his first Trinidad and Tobago squad, dropping captain Kenwyne Jones and handing a shock recall to 38-year-old Carlos Edwards. The towering former Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke City striker, who has skippered his country since 2011, headed home the winner for Central FC in their top-of-the-table clash with W Connection on Monday – a result that sent The Sharks six points clear at the summit. Wingback Edwards, meanwhile, hasn’t added to his 88 caps since 2013.
Saintfiet recently replaced Stephen Hart at the reins after the Soca Warriors began the Hexagonal phase of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with a 2-0 loss at home to Costa Rica and a 3-1 defeat in Honduras. The Belgian called up 28 players for a training camp, and will cut a few before T&T play back-to-back friendlies against Nicaragua later this month.
“It was a short period of time for me before I had to release a squad,” Saintfiet said in a statement. “It is naturally not easy if you have just arrived in the country, as I prefer to have much more time to analyse and see the local leagues. I saw now most of the teams in the Pro League and also the Super League.
“The squad is made based on my style of play, but also on consultation with several people of the technical committee, local coaches and other local people involved in football here. In the future, we can also see players involved who were maybe not selected now, because then I will follow up the league more and know more about the individual players and their qualities, and I would have more knowledge of the players in the local league and abroad.
“To me, now it is a good moment in these sessions to see the players who play in the local league and some who play abroad who are available, to analyse, to see if they fit into my thoughts on how to play and also their personalities; and in a few days' time, the squad has to reduced.”
Trinidad and Tobago resume their Russia 2018 qualification campaign in March, when they welcome Panama and Mexico to Port of Spain. The top three in the six-side Hexagonal reach Russia 2018 automatically, while the fourth-placed finishers face an Asian team in the intercontinental play-off.
Trinidad and Tobago are the smallest nation to participate in the World Cup, with their only appearance having come at Germany 2006. In qualifying for that tournament, the Soca Warriors were bottom of the Hexagonal after three rounds, but the appointment of Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker revitalised their fortunes. Three wins from their last four games – ones indebted to Stern John – nicked them a place in the intercontinental play-off, where they overcame Bahrain.
Shaka Hislop, Edwards, Dwight Yorke, John and Co helped T&T grab an unexpected draw with Sweden in their curtain-raiser, before 2-0 losses to England and Paraguay sent them home.