For a long time, Tobago have been dependent on the coaching skill of Bertille St Clair, who led Trinidad and Tobago to a 2000 semi-final berth, its best-ever showing at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Thursday’s international friendly, which was won 3-0 by Guadeloupe, gave Tobago a chance to expose a new coach to international football. Given the job was Marlon Toppin, a former Goal City footballer, who led Roxborough Lakers to a close second spot to Goal City in the Tobago Premier Divison last season.
“We have a young coach, Marlon Toppin. He has been working with Roxborough Lakers, but it’s his first time in charge of a Tobago team. So, the Guadeloupe match also gave him exposure and the chance to grow as a coach as well,” stated Everton Alfred, general secretary of the Tobago Football Association (TFA).
Given that they did not have much of a preparation, Toppin had Tobago playing quite well, particularly in the first half, against Guadeloupe. Toppin gave almost every player a run, using an entirely different team in either half. And if the TFA has its way, Toppin may get a few more chances to coach Tobago in other friendly internationals.
“This is one of the few ways our coaches get to take a step further and learn the game at an international level,” Alfred added.
Not that Tobago is trying to break away from the Trinidad and Tobago national team. Instead, Alfred thinks Tobago players need exposure apart from a T&T national team, and a few games separate might give T&T national coach Stephen Hart the chance to scout the talent on the sister isle.
And Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) apparently have no problem with Tobago playing on its own team from time to time. In fact, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who is also Mayor of Port of Spain, sees it as a partnership.
“I know there are a lot of good players in Tobago and at times they are not known, they are not seen, and all the dynamics. We have to put an end to that,’’ declared Tim Kee. “So, when we got the games against Guadeloupe, we offered Tobago the opportunity to handle it. We had at times assisted them with how to organise it, but its all part of my promise to involve Tobago in the international football.”
Among the players Tobago fielded against Guadeloupe were Stokely Vale’s Tyronne Manning, one of the top five National Super League players of 2011; Akini Ferguson, last year’s top-score with Tobago champions Goal City; his brother Kerlon Ferguson (Goal City), a former player with 2010 T&T Pro Legue runners-up T&TEC; defender Omar Charles, who played Pro League football with both Central FC and Point Fortin Civic in 2013-2014; Gem Gordon, a 2013 trialist with England club Walsall, who played for Pro League champions W Connection; and McKenzie Denoon, the 2013 keeper for Tobago schoolboys football champions Speyside, who came on and made several good second half saves.
Since the demise of Tobago United, the sister isle does not have a professional team, so Tobago players have to come to Trinidad to play club football at the highest level. Among them are Rundell Winchester and Trevin Caesar, who a few months ago were playing for Central FC and North East Stars, but are now playing for clubs in the Belgium and US, respectively. Darren “Chucky” Mitchell is also Tobago-born, but now plays for Central FC.
“There is an exodus of players leaving once again, going to Trinidad because they want to ply their trade at the best level,” stated Peter Granville, coach of the now defunct Tobago United, Tobago’s only Pro League team. “But you never know what will happen in the next couple of years.”
1. Joel Sampson (GK), 2.Simon Nedd, 3.Mensa Pollard, 4.Omar Charles, 5.Vernon Wilson, 7.Staffano Wright, 10.Kerron Phillips, 11.Arthur Moses, 12. Andel Brown, 16.Kern Harris, 17.Tyronne Manning, 19.Kerlon Ferguson, 20.Larry Potts. SUBS: 6. Nyron Orr, 8.Deon Thomas, 9.Anson Campbell, 13.Karlon Morris, 14.Gem Gordon, 15.Carmichael Sealy, 18. Akini Ferguson, 21.Devon Leacock, 22(GK) McKenzie Denoon.