Warner fires St Clair

Irving Ward
Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

In Los Angeles

Having failed to lead Trinidad and Tobago to the championship in the Football Federation 2000 Gold Cup, Bertille St Clair yesterday also lost his job as national senior team coach.

Trinidad and Tobago special adviser Jack Austin Warner, president Ollie Camps and secretary Richard Groden met with national technical director Edgar Vidale to review St Clair's tenure on Friday night. Warner announced the decision to terminate him the next day.

The committee also decided that the services of veteran midfielder David Nakhid, striker Jerren Nixon and goalkeeper Michael McComie will no longer be required.

It was also recommended that the position of T&T General Manager Richard Braithwaite be restructured and a separate manager be named to take over the team.

St Clair and the team were notified of the decisions hours just before they were set to break camp here at the Radisson Wiltshire Hotel and return home to prepare for next Saturday's 2002 World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands Antilles.

Many reacted by deserting their rooms to vent their frustrations in one way or other, dissatisfied with a move which may yet throw the country's future into shambles.

The Tobago-born St Clair is coming off a Gold Cup series in which he steered T&T to their best ever finish. What is more is that he has also had a highly successful two-year-stint, earning two Caribbean titles and scoring historic wins over South Africa (2-0), Colombia (4-3) and a first ever win over Costa Rica (2-1) here in the quarterfinals. But St Clair was deemed to have too many technical flaws to be allowed to continue.

It is not yet known who will replace St Clair. However, the name of Joe Public's new English coach, Ian Porterfield, has been tossed around for some time and his presence in the country makes his selection a real possibility, particularly as the opening World Cup qualifier is so close at hand.

Warner gave some insight into what was to come on Friday, at a luncheon he hosted for the team at the Caribbean Tree House Restaurant. But he did not commit himself to any decision, pending the outcome of the meeting.

"We (TTFF) have to sit down and analyse this effort," he said, "and find where we went wrong and see what kind of remedial measures we will have to take and take quickly. We can"t seek to solve this problem next month or next year; it has to be solved now. "

Asked about St Clair's future, Warner explained: "You will bear in mind that Mr St Clair was given a contract up to the end of February. One of the conditions in the contract was that if he won the Gold Cup, we would look at it (renewal) positively; if he did not, we reserve the right to come to some kind of decision on his future."

He revealed that while they were all appreciative of and thankful for St Clair's efforts, it would eventually be a decision which they would have to give serious consideration, it was felt that he could not take the team forward. And Warner is not worried that removing St Clair-who has gained the respect of the squad and instilled in the team the discipline and fighting spirit which were conspicuous by the absence in the last two World Cup campaigns-might endanger the forthcoming drive.

"The immediacy of the World Cup match does not make a difference," he said. "In fact, it might be prudent to make whatever changes we have to now rather than wait till later."

It would seem then that the loss to Canada was the breaking-point.

"Canada is by far one of the weakest teams in this competition. They came through on the toss of a coin, yet to all intents and purposes, they are now the CONCACAF champions," Warner said.

"I have consistently said that in spite of our success and victories, I stll find the team to be technically deficient in several areas-particularly with regard to our defence and, to a lesser extent, our midfield."

"I felt all along," Warner added, "that we would pay for those deficiencies."

Skipper Anthony Rougier's squad managed to reach the semi-finals without five key players in Stern John, Shaka Hislop, Ian Cox, Ronnie Maugé and Dwight Yorke, who was injured after the prelims.

But that achievement did not seem to count for much as far as Warner was concerned.

"This team has got all the resources possible," he said. "Just for the matches they have played so far, I have paid them US$175,000 from my own pocket."

"Not one single player has not been paid and I just felt it was time the players give back something," he ended. "If I tell you I am not hurt by this loss, I would be lying."