Trinidad and Tobago Express
Warner sends apology to Atkinson
Monday, April 4th 2005
Jack Warner, special advisor to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF), has sent a letter of apology to Englishman Ron Atkinson following a decision not to appoint him as head coach of the T&T national senior team.
Subsequently, following the approval of the T&TFF Technical Advisory Committee and the players, Dutchman Leo Beenhakker was appointed head coach, replacing Bertille St Clair.
Atkinson yesterday expressed disappointment over not being able to work with the T&T team in a newspaper column in England and Warner dispatched an apology.
But this afternoon, Warner and T&TFF president Oliver Camps will be on hand at Piarco International Airport to welcome new coach Beenhakker on his arrival from London.
The former Netherlands national team coach will be in Trinidad for four days, when he will meet with officials of the team and the Federation, as well as the players. He will also visit some of the facilities which will be at his disposal.
In a brief statement, Beenhakker made it clear he is coming with a no-nonsense approach to the job of guiding the T&T Warriors to a favourable position in the six-team CONCACAF 2006 World Cup qualifying group, beginning with the next home qualifier against Panama on June 4.
"I understand the situation of the team and from my side I can confirm my interest in taking over the job as a responsible head coach. I only have to explain that from my side the key for accepting a job or not does not depend on the financial conditions in the first place. Primarily, I am much more interested in the technical conditions and the circumstances to do my job. For me that's the basic part to being successful or not," stated the former Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid coach.
Camps expressed confidence in Beenhakker, also thanking Warner for his efforts to ensure that the Warriors remain well resourced for the remainder of the campaign.
Trinidad and Tobago Express
Ron: Warner gave me job
Ex-Villa coach slams Yorke
Monday, April 4th 2005
Disgraced ex-Manchester United football manager and commentator "Big" Ron Atkinson yesterday rubbished a claim by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) that he was not offered the national coaching post last week.
T&TFF press officer Shaun Fuentes said Atkinson's name was "mentioned" in a meeting with the national players last Thursday morning at the Crowne Plaza but denied he was officially appointed.
Atkinson refuted the T&TFF's claim and revealed yesterday he signed a contract to take over the team last Monday-two days before coach Bertille St Clair led out the Trinidad and Tobago team in a World Cup qualifier at home to Costa Rica.
Atkinson, who made racial slurs aimed at ex-France World Cup captain Marcel Desailly last April, said FIFA vice-president and T&TFF special advisor Jack Warner was aware he was accused of being racist but it did not bother him.
"Jack Warner is on the very top echelon of FIFA," Atkinson told the Sunday Sport newspaper in England. "When he rang me and offered me the job-I didn't apply-he knew all about what I said. We discussed it. To him, it wasn't a problem. He wasn't interested.
"And so, after discussing terms, making plans for the seven qualifying games that I am sure would have taken this tiny nation to the greatest football show on the planet, I signed my fax."
He insisted that happened four days before the T&TFF appointed Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker as St Clair's successor.
Everything changed on Thursday morning in a heated meeting the T&TFF suggested never happened.
Several senior players, including team captain Dwight Yorke-who played under Atkinson at Aston Villa-were unhappy when Warner announced he would be their new coach.
Their reservations generally centred on Atkinson's infamous blast at Desailly, who he called "a f**king lazy thick ******" while in the ITV studio after a European Champions League match between Chelsea and Monaco.
Atkinson later claimed to be unaware that the microphone was still on and insisted he had gotten caught up in the heat of the moment. It was not the first or last time he ran afoul of British anti-racism groups.
He remarked that a Cameroon player's mother was probably "watching the game sitting up a tree" while commentating during the Italy 1990 World Cup and, three months ago, joked that Chinese women were "ugly" at a Sheffield Wednesday fund-raiser.
Atkinson has not denied any of these incidents, although he said in his Sunday Sport column it was "time to forgive and forget". But he launched an angry counter at Yorke, who he insisted could not know him very well and was a hypocrite.
He confirmed that some players resented his appointment, which left Warner in an awkward position.
"Jack Warner, who offered me the job at the start of the week, had to withdraw that offer by last Thursday" said Atkinson. "The reason? I believe some of the senior players like Yorke, the player I gave a first chance to while manager of Aston Villa, and Hislop, someone who I have never met, told Warner they could not and would not work with me.
"I believe they think I am a racist. Something I never was and never will be...
"Mr Warner, who has now appointed Leo Beenhakker, is angry and embarrassed. For legal reasons, I can't give you the full version of events that brought about the u-turn
"Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop and a few more might want to look into their hearts and examine their consciences."
Atkinson was particularly upset with Yorke because he claimed the ex-Manchester United star was very friendly with him when they met at a Birmingham hotel, a few weeks ago.
"He came up to me (and said) 'How are you, gaffer? Great to see you, hope you're well'," Atkinson stated. "I hadn't even spotted him. But he couldn't wait to shake my hand, pat me on the back. The full hit
"We were never close friends but I always believed he respected me. Now I know different
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion but it does not ease the blow of getting a job and then having it taken away from me. But I know the truth about myself and many black players and officials the world over know the truth about me."
Opinion is split in Britain over racial accusations surrounding Atkinson, but clearly not in his favour.
He is still remembered fondly by fans of all races for selecting three black players-Brendon Batson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham-on his West Brom team in the late 1970s when most top-flight English clubs did not field non-white players.
John Barnes, the Jamaican-born former Liverpool star, does not think he is racist, while ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright said he would refuse to acknowledge Atkinson if they met in the future.
The mainstream British media have made Atkinson an outcast.
He was forced to quit posts at ITV and the London Guardian newspaper, which cost him more than $2 million a year in revenue. The Sunday Sport, which published his column yesterday, might make the Trinidad and Tobago Sunday Punch seem conservative.
The front page of the tabloid features a scantily-clad young lady with legs ajar, while the back page, on which there is a picture of Atkinson reading the paper, is littered with advertisements for adult movies and sex chats.
Racist or not, Atkinson will not get the chance to rebuild his tarnished career in Trinidad and Tobago.