THE two match series between Trinidad and Hull City of England has been drawn with Trinidad winning the first match at the Oval 2-1 and Hull City winning the return at Skinner Park 2-0.
But, the sorry state of our football is still with us. Since the decline of Malvern after the mid sixties we have not produced a team that can match the performances of previous years, despite the emergence of players like Archibald, Cummings, Deleon and Lincoln Phillip.
Trinidad's performance in this series has been uninspiring and lackadaisical. While possessing in defence Selwyn Murren, Raymond Moraldo and Lawrence Rondon, three players of genuine class, the rest of the team is comprised of mediocrities whose creativity is limited to square passes and back passes to the goalkeeper. The immediate needs are a creative half line plus disciplined and skillful wingbacks.
The present half line is shared amongst Headley, Spann, Husbands and Morgan, good club players, but not of international standard, especially when compared with Franco, Sedley Joseph, Doyle Griffith, Bertrand Grell, stars of the recent past.
The difficulty they present to the team is that because of their failure to feed the forward line properly it devolves upon the forwards to run back, work the ball up for themselves and then set about the task of scoring.
The pressure is too much. Our halves are so bogged down in trying to master technique that they are unable to plan and execute creative plays.
Their lack of ball control, and by that I mean precise distribution, clean collecting and trapping as well as running with the ball, reflects the inadequacy of their preparation. To my mind the emphasis on physical exercise at the expense of sharpening ball skills is the essential fault of our training programmes.
A player will start his first class career not heading properly and finish his career that way. Di Stefano, the former Real Madrid and Spain player, once said that if you want to play soccer you must master the ball.
The other setback is the absence of able wingbacks. How could a non-player like Winston Phillip represent Trinidad so consistently? The only attribute that recommends him is his long throw. His positioning, ball skill and distribution are non-existant.
In the first match at the Oval he even resorted to pushing out his bottom to an oncoming opponent to stop him. Yet it is said that he is the best left back available.
The problem arises both from coaches and players. On the one hand coaches seem to be of the opinion that because a player is a stopper for his club he cannot play at wingback; players on the other hand don't like to play wingback.
To many it's the "dog" position on a team. The problem can be easily solved in the short run by converting anyone of our good stoppers to that position.
Finally, we have produced since the mid-sixties players such as Archibald, Cummings and Deleon whose ability is unquestionably of international standard. The talents of these players have been exported to the American professional league and the socioeconomic reasons that forced them to take that option are among the factors underlying our lackadaisical displays.
The minor leagues demonstration of 1969, the Pele fracas at the Oval and striking footballers also attest to the underlying malaise which continues to frustrate our chances of enjoying a consistently high standard of football from our players.