Wed | Sep 20, 2017

T&T hires Saintfiet with ultimatum

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):

Well-travelled Belgian Tom Saintfiet was yesterday appointed head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago national side but could be sacked after just two games in charge if he does not keep the twin-island republic in contention for the World Cup finals.

The 43-year-old was announced by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association as the replacement for Stephen Hart, who was fired last month after the country's poor start to the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying final round.

Saintfiet, who has already coached in multiple countries, will be in charge of the national side for their two upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico next March, and TTFA president David John Williams said he would be held to a very high standard for those two encounters.

"He came highly recommended as well. He worked in difficult situations in Africa and we feel he can do the job for us," John-Williams told a media conference here.

"I will also tell you this, if he doesn't get the job done on the 24th and 28th of March [2017], he will be looking for a job, and I make no apologies for saying that.

"We are very serious because if we don't get the result on the 24th and on the 28th of March, we may as well kiss our campaign goodbye."

NEAR THE BOTTOM

Trinidad lie one from bottom in the six-team final round without a point after losing both their opening games last month.

They went down 2-0 at home to Costa Rica on November 11, and four days later, suffered a 3-1 defeat to Honduras away in San Pedro Sula at the Estadio OlÌmpico Metropolitano.

Hart, who led the squad for three and a half years, paid the price with his job and John-Williams argued that results was the nature of professional football.

"Football and professional sport is a brutal game," he pointed out. "World Cup qualifying, it's about results and getting to the World Cup. If the results don't go your way, you have to do something different."

Saintfiet has coached extensively in Africa, leading Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Togo and Malawi, as well as a stint with Asian nation Bangladesh.

Facing the media for the first time, he praised Trinidad and Tobago as a country with a "huge history" but with a "more huge future", and said he believed he could play a role in advancing the national programme.

He said he also believed T&T could still rescue their World Cup dream of reaching Russia 2018.

"I believe it's possible. Two games have been played. We are in fifth position and we have to be in the top three or if needed, to be in the fourth position for the playoffs but they are still eight games to go," Saintfiet said.