LEO RETURNS: Former Trinidad and Tobago football coach, now director of T&T football, Leo Beenhakker, is set to return to this country next month. The Dutchman, who led T&T to their only World Cup in 2006, will embark on a development plan for local football.

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Beenhakker back in January

 Veteran Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker is set to re-enter the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) set-up in January. 

Beenhakker was hired as technical director six months ago, but there were some issues the veteran Dutch coach wanted to work out before he came on board. When he re-enters the arrangement next month, Beenhakker will embark on a development programme for various areas of the game. He will work with current technical director Anton Corneal and the other local coaches. 

“Leo’s arrival in January will reflect a new direction that includes establishing five to ten-year player and coaching development programmes, which is again one of the major objectives set out by (TTFA) president (Raymond) Tim Kee,” TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips said.

Phillips also revealed that matches for January and March are in the planning stages, and that the TTFA will also launch the “TTFA in the Community” project, which includes a ball distribution programme.

One of the Beenhakker’s roles is plotting a path for the senior national team’s progress to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. His work with see him consulting with senior national coach Stephen Hart, who was also hired six months ago. Hart is encouraged by the progress of the National team and is looking to making further forward steps in 2014. 

“It’s been a testing period for our football and for me coming into the programme just over six months ago, there’s been evident signs of some progress, but still nothing close to what is required or what I think is needed for us to be in a position to really challenge the best (in the region),” Hart said. “We saw some good performances and the results were okay but there is need for more consistency and we have got to be in a more stable position in terms of knowing how our programmes are going to run.”

In his half year in charge, Hart carried the “Warriors” to its best finish since 2000 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, when claiming a quarter-final spot before going out 1-0 on a late goal against Mexico. During the Gold Cup the Warriors put in credible performances, including a 2-2 draw with El Salvador. The Warriors also had good results against teams representing  2014 World Cup qualifier Mexico and Honduras.

T&T won  2-0 over Honduras, who had rested some of their players, and 1-0 over a young Mexico squad. Later at the OSN Cup, Trinidad and Tobago finished third defeating Saudi Arabia (3-1) on their home territory, and forged a three-goal comeback against United Arab Emirates for a 3-3 draw in September. The Soca Warriors also surpassed Caribbean rivals Jamaica on the FIFA world rankings, and  following that up with convincing back to back victories over the “Reggae  Boyz” in a home and away friendly series in November.

For 2014, the T&T football programme promises to be another hectic one for Hart and company. The TTFA has stated its intention to orchestrate several moves to aid in the development of the game. Hart believes the support of the Ministry of Sport towards the endeavours will be critical, just like it has been in 2013.

“Collectively we need to work together for successful outcomes to be achieved. To date [Sport] Minister Anil Roberts, the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company (of T&T) have been supportive of our efforts. I look forward to even further dialog and a sound working relationship, with an aim of bringing the game to its rightful place in CONCACAF. In order to do this we have to do everything in our power to support the players and facilitate International best practices,” Hart added.

“The Minister appears to be very interested in our ambitions to succeed on the football stage and even when there are difficult times, this is always something encouraging for us. His knowledge and support will be an asset.”

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