National Under-17 football coach Stern John has credited his players for the hard work and effort given at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in, Florida, USA despite being booted out after a 4-1 loss to Honduras in the round of 16 on Wednesday.
In a post-match interview, the former T&T striker now turns coach, said he believes the players have left the tournament with more experience, knowledge and with a better understanding of the game. As such John has called for the team to be kept together for future tournaments, as he believes the players were willing to go out there and die for the cause.
"The game was a very difficult one for us, I think we weathered the storm in the first half, we got a soft penalty and the keeper saved it. The game was evenly matched in the first half but in the second half, we came out lacking concentration. We conceded an early goal but we managed to get ourselves back in the game. A couple of minutes later we conceded again and we never got time to settle, as we were just chasing the game. But credit to the boys they worked their socks off, coming in as boys and leaving as men because they understand how international football is played now, and what is expected of them to compete at this level."
John believes the difference in lifestyles between our players and their opposition contributed tremendously to the result of the match. "It was not easy. Most of the players they played against in the tournament, play with pro league teams or are assigned to professional teams, while most of our boys play Secondary School football. It's a massive gap, but I thought the boys did really well and they should be proud."
The T&T team had just a month to prepare under John after the previous coach Russell Latapy withheld his services because of unpaid wages. However, John and his staff which included Kenwyne Jones, the former T&T striker, agreed to work for free and had very little time to prepare the team.
Yesterday John said he was happy with the work done in the short time they had. "In a short space of time, we did not bad in the tournament, we managed to qualify for the second round and we were not together for a long time, so you can imagine if we were together for a much longer time and prepare properly, then the sky would have been the limit."
John gave the assurance he will try everything in his power to keep the team together, saying the players were willing to die for the cause.