Former national striker Everald "Gally" Cummings, coach of the Strike Squad that failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, the event we all know as, "November 19"
considers Trinidad and Tobago's victory over the
USA at the Hasley Crawford Stadium last Wednesday.
Twelfth time lucky but Trinidad and Tobago have beat the US?
[Gally laughing happily] At Hasley Crawford Stadium!
Were you in the stadium?
No, BC, I hate to start on a bad note but I've never received an invitation from the TTFA for the last 25 years. I think I've contributed more than most to the game of football. I took the team, as you would know, [national] football was in its grave in 1989 and I brought it back to life. All the talk about Soca Warriors, kaisoca soccer, I coined our football. Because of the contribution I've made, I said to myself, "I'm never going to see football unless I get a lifetime pass." So I didn't see the game. I listened to it over the radio and then I got a late telecast from channel six.
You had to miss not being there?
Of course! Two of my boys are still there, Russell [Latapy] and Dwight [Yorke], and both of them scored.
They were key to Wednesday's victory but do you think they're key to our game itself?
They'll always be key to the game. If you look at the past, since 1989, when they were on the team that played on November 19, which we lost to America, our football hasn't really gone any place! You have a gentleman that's 40 years old [Latapy] and another one [Yorke, aged 37] I think are the two oldest players on the team-and they're still the two best players on the team! It means that, in respect of development, nothing has been done!
But they are exceptionally good players, though?
Yeah, but when I was playing, I was an exceptionally good player, too-but we had players who could replace people! I played until I was 29 and now I'm seeing people playing at age 40. But it's very nice to see people still appreciated at that age.
Are Dwight and Russell key to the whole South Africa 2010 campaign?
No. I think at sometime or the other they'll start to tire. We have to get other players involved in filling that void they might leave when they have to pack up. Dwight must have retired about three times already and Russell did a goodbye lap in 2006 before Germany!
[Laughs] These guys keep retiring and they keep bringing them back. I thought Russell was coming back as player coach - from what I'm seeing, I don't think that is the case.
There must be new blood coming in?
This is why you have what you call, "a development plan". And you have a structure in respect of different levels of football. You have a technical director. You have your football starting from your U-15s or what-have-you, right up. Take Silvio Spann. We needed a player and he came from abroad into the team. I'm not saying he isn't a good player or that he shouldn't be playing. But if things going properly on stream, a proper structure, we should have been able to get that player [from a] squad of 23!
Is it always that we're lucky to win?
Let me tell you, from my experience, we will always have that problem, once Jack Warner is in charge of football. Because nobody else seems to want to oppose this man and no one seems to see the greater picture. If he want to head football, all well and good; but he cannot be selecting players, selecting coaches-because, whether we won a game [last Wednesday] or not, all those decisions - bring Stern John, [Chris] Birchall, Dwight, this one, that one, back into the team-I'm sure wasn't done by the coach! As we all know in Trinidad! If you look at 1980, when I took the team, okay, we stumbled at the gates when we lost to America, the entire country said, "Let this team continue". He decide to remove me! Because I'm not an easy person to compromise with when you have a different agenda. He remove me because they were owing the players a lot of money, just like in 2006 when they came from Germany and had the falling out over money-the same thing happened in 1989!
Because I was the voice of the team, they shut the players up by removing me!
The same thing keeps happening: after World Cup programmes, we move a few older players who can't make it again here and there, we go into a sort of a hibernation- we don't hear anything about players again until the World Cup comes and things start to look bad. Then you start to see players come in at the last whistle. Which is bad. From 2006, we should have been continuing our trend straight up.
That can only happen when you have a strong group of people that can say, "Listen: this is the direction that football supposed to go!" The ones who don't know about football, leave it alone! Jack Warner, they're afraid to talk about him, but, as special advisor, I want to know, what is he advising on specifically? Whether its' the financial part, the football part, the whatever part. It seems he has his hand in everything and everyone else just backs off. We need a vibrant football association with a strong president who could make a decision and stand by it and not let outside forces influence him.
This is why football is blown apart. Back before 2006, Dwight Yorke and them had a problem with Jack Warner, remember that? When Jack say how Dwight was a cancer to football and young people? And then when things went bad with [former national coach Leo] Beenhakker, he went and pay a set of money and get Dwight back. If you check the history of football, all the top class players, from myself come up, have always had problems with the administration.
You know why? Because we understand football in a certain way and they understand football from-I wouldn't even call it an administrative point of view because I don't consider them administrators! They've always had a different agenda to the players and this is the problem we see now.
That happened to me in 1989. There was a conflict of interests and when I didn't play games with them, they just remove me. Up to this day I can't get a ticket because I'm a strong-minded person and, BC, to be honest with you, I would never put up with the kinds of things I see coaches putting up with!
But to be fair to him, Jack Warner took us to the World Cup?
What I'm saying: we could have gone to the World Cup after 1989, if we had continue! But what he did: to build himself up, make it look like he is the messiah in football, he just remove everybody else, like myself, who could make a contribution. Let me ask you a question: who else is in a position to do anything for football but Jack Warner? He put himself in that position, makes it look as though he is the only one. BC, I could call ten, 15 different names who, if they come together, could do more for football at a technical level than Jack Warner! Jack Warner has done some good, okay, but I think he has done more bad than good. If you ask 100 per cent of footballers what they think of Jack Warner, 99 per cent will tell you he should be out of the game.
What was it like for you, the boys winning?
I'll tell you: Every time Trinidad and Tobago plays a game, I am nervous, until I start to see things going right. [Wednesday] night was nerve-wracking for me because after Latapy scored, I said, okay, let's get another one and then America equalised. From the time Dwight walked up to kick the penalty, I knew he would put it away.
Dwight is one of the most clinical players I've known. When it comes to set pieces and penalties, he's very serious and works at his craft, him and Latapy. It was not like November 19 all over again because that day can't come back. We were playing to get in a World Cup and this one was just to get into a second rounds. We have to be very careful and I know a lot of Trinidadians might not like to hear me say this because I might be bursting a lot of people's bubble, but, as happy as I might be, we played a second-rate American team.
The American coach is a very smart person. He played a weak team against our strongest team! Now he knows exactly what Dwight's energy and strength is, what he does to the team. He knows how many minutes Latapy will get, what to expect when Latapy gets the ball. None of his goal-scorers didn't play! We might have a false sense of security. I hope [national coach Francisco] Maturana and those people understand and stop basking in this glory. We beat an American second-rate team! And we have to know the level we have to lift our game to when we play the first-rate American team. Because, while we play warm-up games against Santo Domingo and these jokers, America usually practises against Brazil, Germany and Italy! You see the level their players are practising against? In America, they're wondering where else to play because they've outgrown CONCACAF. We have to understand, we catch we royal to beat Guatemala! And Cuba, who is the weakest team in the zone beat them! With all their brilliance, teams could put two men to mark Latapy and screen out Dwight and, when it come down to the other nine against nine, we have to be very careful.
Would you accept a role in national football if offered?
BC, I have never refused my country yet. As much as I dislike the things the administration and Jack have been doing-any time I am called upon to make a contribution to Trinidad and Tobago, I am always available.