Latapy, Yorke dropped

Irving Ward
Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

Technical director and stand-in Trinidad and Tobago coach, Rene Simoes, yesterday put the hammer down, taking a stand which may either make or break this country's 2002 World Cup effort. In a move which took some testicular fortitude, given the desperation of his team, the Brazilian coach dropped star players Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke for tomorrow's crucial World Cup qualifier against Jamaica after another tumultuous 48 hours in which both players' commitment to the cause once again came under scrutiny. Both Latapy and Yorke turned up at T&T's training session at the Queen's Park Oval yesterday afternoon dressed down and obviously not prepared for training.

But, as the media would learn afterwards, it was because they had been notified by letter from Simoes earlier in the day of their sacking. Confirming Simoes' move last evening was T&T manager, Neville Chance, who added that the pair was notified before hand that falling afoul of the Brazilian - known to be a hard-nosed disciplinarian - would result in such sanctions." I think it is obvious that the squad that will be playing on Saturday is the one you see here in red and black," Chance said, while Simoes took his squad, minus Latapy and Yorke, through its paces on the Oval turf.

"But it (sacking of the duo) is not an acrimonious sought of thing," added Chance, who said the decision holds for tomorrow's game only." It is something that the coach had identified before, that the players who will be considered for selection are those who would be in the camp from the Tuesday, when we get back (from Bermuda), to the day of the game (against Jamaica)." Once again, Latapy and Yorke ran afoul of Simoes for similar reasons; not fully committing themselves to the team, now in a desperate situation to save a campaign many have already given up on.

Latapy, following the team's warm-up game in Bermuda, had journeyed to Scotland on Tuesday to finalise a new deal with Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. Yorke, who scored in a 5-0 victory over the Bermudans, meanwhile failed to join the team camp at the Emerald Apartments, St Augustine, since its return to the country on Monday night.

In both cases, Chance said the players - who held discussions with Chance and Simoes during their brief visit at the Oval yesterday - were fully aware of the ramifications of such actions. Taking up each man's case, Chance explained: "In the case of Russell (Latapy), we all know he had an engagement where he had to go to Scotland to sign a contract.

"What the coach said was that he (Latapy) had his responsibility and, certainly, the technical staff and the team has theirs. He (Latapy) chose to go there (Scotland) and that's not a problem."The thing is that we (squad) have to move on. He has to be concerned with his future and Trinidad and Tobago has to be concerned with its future, in terms of football."He added: "I know it had been a difficult decision for Russell, but certainly, when he made that decision I'm sure he would have been aware of the consequences of that decision."

Yorke, who only two weeks ago was sacked and re-instated by former coach Ian Porterfield after a public apology over his absence from the team's last friendly against Panama, meanwhile came with his own excuse.

According to Chance, the Manchester United player is now trying desperately to cope with the events of the past couple months, a whirlwind ride which he is yet, it would seem, to recover from."Dwight (Yorke) is of the view that, at this present point in time, mentally, he is not well prepared (to play). Having considered all the things that are happening in his life, he is not mentally prepared.

"And he always wants to be mentally and physically prepared when representing Trinidad and Tobago. He therefore feels that he will not be doing justice to himself and Trinidad and Tobago at this time if he takes the field."

This from a man who had promised, in a stirring letter of apology which convinced all, including Simoes, that he would fight to the end, to redouble his efforts in helping the team in its bid to reach a first ever World Cup Finals.

The 29-year-old Yorke, whose name was again linked to a move to his former club Aston Villa in England yesterday, bluntly refused to speak to the media during his brief salvo at the Oval.

Latapy meanwhile promised to make a press release on the issue surrounding his decision to fly to Scotland later on.

However, he did offer a few words, urging his teammates to focus on the task at hand, stopping the Reggae Boyz tomorrow." I just want the team to stay focussed on the task at hand, which is playing Jamaica and winning against them," the 32-year-old midfielder said.

Asked if he regretted getting the chance to line up against the visitors, Latapy explained: "Obviously, I'm a football player and I want to play football. But I have to respect all decisions made by the technical staff for the better of the team and I wish the team all the best." But, according to Chance, the squad has already adjusted to the loss of two of its most experienced players. Noting that the team spirit in the camp remained high even after Simoes alerted them to the decision, Chance said: "The mood in the camp is very good. I think they are all prepared to go on Saturday and defeat Jamaica."