Barbados main objective is to outscore their opposition in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Under-17 Championship to be played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Coach Renaldo ‘PeeWee’ Gilkes said he is happy with the progress of Barbados’ preparation so far as the young Bajan Tridents have been hard at work with newly appointed Barbados Football Association head coach Russell Latapy for the upcoming May 1-16 qualifiers.
Scheduled to depart this coming Monday, Barbados will feature in group H against hosts United States of America, Canada and Guatemala as they bid for a place to be among the final four teams that will automatically advance into the 2019 FIFA World Cup to be played in Brazil.
“We have been preparing for a number of months including this year when we had some regional counterparts that came in for visas. So, we had some much-needed games, in fact, we played four matches, scored eleven goals and more important than the result was the opportunity to see our boys face tough opposition so we could identify our weaknesses and strength.
“We have been on the training ground most notably with the guidance and assistance of recently appointed head coach Russell Latapy. And preparation, since he has been here, has been heightened. There is a greater sense of professionalism that he would have brought from his twenty-plus years in Europe. So, preparation has been going pretty okay so far, and our aim is to work hard and out -think the opponents, that is basically it,” Gilkes said.
According to Gilkes, Barbados’ biggest threat will mostly come from hosts United States who were runners-up to Mexico at the last CONCACAF Under-17 men’s competition after a 5-4 penalty shootout in Panama in 2017.
However, Gilkes said he was not too worried considering three of this country’s best Under-17 players Shaquanie Phillips, Andre Applewhaite and captain Rashon Gittens were fortunate to play for Barbados at the IMG in Florida at the CONCACAF Under-20 tournament.
Gilkes, a former national Under-21 captain, believes that level of exposure combined with a few home games played earlier this year by Bajan Tridents against countries such as St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Puerto Rico have assisted significantly in their preparation.
In addition, he sees group H as a reward for Barbados’ hard work and explained that overseas players such as forward Thierry Gale currently based in Hungary, Asher Jean Pierre in Spain along with Rashon Gittens and Abiola Grant both in Europe will further solidify the national team.
“The United States because they have a home court advantage obviously, they would have the opportunity to acclimatize themselves. I think they are probably there in Florida already, so they have the chance to familiarize themselves being at home. They have players in an academy set-up, and we are also bearing in mind that they are runners-up from the last tournament. So, they would be tough opposition for everyone in the group and not just us.
“Andre Applewhaite, Shaquanie Phillips and Rashon Gittens would have played at the IMG against quality opposition like Costa Rica and Haiti, and that was just a couple months ago. So, I think having those players with that measure of experience lends well to the team and more so from a psychological perspective more than anything else. But all in all, I mean playing the premier league here in itself as a fifteen, sixteen-year-old is added experience. It is added value, and I am sure that we would use that experience to the best of our know-how. Majority of the team play premier league and division one football along with our overseas based players in Thierry Gale and Asher Jean Pierre. I think we have a pretty competitive squad, an experienced team and one that is willing to work hard enough for the team.
“We are getting to play some of the best nations in the CONCACAF region and this group is a reward to the hard work and the good results we would have attained during under-fifteens. Right now, we are ranked fourteen or fifteen in this age group based on what we would have done at under-fifteen. So, I think that being held in such high esteem and being held in such company which is the United States, Canada and Guatemala is a testament to the work that we put in. We look forward to doing well against such oppositions,” Gilkes expressed.
The Barbados team: Andre Applewhaite, Lemar Catlyn, Thierry Gale, Brandon Sumpter, Nathan Skeete, Jahmali Hutson, Abiola Grant, Shaquanie Phillips, Devonte Richards, Hashim Brewster, Axel Funk, Tajio James, Jamol Williams, Asher Jn Pierre, Jaylan Gilkes, Roshon Gittens, Ethan Bryan and Shaquan Phillips. The coaching and management unit is comprised of Renaldo Gilkes, Russell Latapy, Wendley Carter, Ahmed Mohamed, Ryan Brewster, Shem Small.