By Neto Baptiste
Although pleased that an all-local squad was able to convincingly beat the USVI and move Antigua and Barbuda atop Group A in the CONCACAF leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Saturday night, assistant coach George Warner believes the Benna Boys are stronger with the help of England-based players.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Warner congratulated the team for their 3-0 triumph over the USVI, but swiftly rebuffed suggestions that an all-local squad may be the way to go at this point.
“These brothers in terms of the English-based players, they bring some real quality to the team and if they were there I would say that not only the roller would roll over but I figured that the garbage truck would be there also to pick them [opponents] up and yes, it was a very good performance by our youngsters. At home, we practiced for the past eight to nine weeks for this and they showed us courage, heart and togetherness and when we see how we came out to play against St. Croix [USVI] where from jumpstart we were ready and we stuck with it until the end of the game,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda team was forced to take on the USVI without the services of their four England-based players — Joshua Parker, Calaum Jahraldo-Martin, Zaine Francis-Angol and Mahlon Romeo along with England-based coach Tom Curtis.
Veteran Peter Byers, who scored once and a double from experienced Quinton Griffith secured victory for Antigua and Barbuda.
Head coach Schyan Jeffers credited Byers for his performance despite public criticism over his selection.
“In our team, I think we need that level of experience and a level of blend with youths in the team because the experienced guys help to take the younger ones to another level and help them to go forward on the right track. The experienced guys also need the younger legs to help us move over the hill,” he said.
The former national player said his goal is to have the team return to training following the mandatory two-week quarantine period as they continue preparations for their clash with Grenada slated for June 4.
“We have to sit down and have a meeting so I can’t tell you the exact plans going forward but [for me], I’d like to go right back into training and have a few friendly games but again, we have to sit down with the management staff and make the best plan going forward. In terms of the quarantine, it would actually help us because some of our guys have some little nagging injuries that needs to be healed so the team doctor will deal with that while they’re in quarantine,” Jeffers said. Antigua and Barbuda are levelled with El Salvador on four points each but leads the standings on goal difference. The Benna Boys boast a plus three goal difference after scoring five and allowing two while El Salvador has a positive two goal difference after scoring three and conceding once.