British Coaches Abroad: Terry Fenwick

Since playing for England at the World Cup, Terry Fenwick has managed in the Caribbean and Belgium. He talks about tropical life, amongst much more besides...

Last Updated: 03/09/14 at 12:21 Post Comment

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Terry Fenwick is manager of CS Visé in the Belgian third division. The 54-year-old played for Crystal Palace, QPR, and Tottenham, among others, and also appeared for England in the 1986 World Cup. He spent ten years managing in Trinidad before taking the Visé job. Here, he talks about Caribbean adventures, winning trophies - and why his dad chased a Sunderland scout down the street...

I've got used to moving around. I'm from Seaham Harbour in County Durham, and I left home when I was 15 and a half, to move to Crystal Palace. For the first six months, I was so homesick, you wouldn't believe it. I couldn't get home quick enough. Every weekend, when I had the chance, I was on the rattler from Kings Cross to Durham to get home. But looking back, it was the best thing I did.

When I was young, Liverpool and Leeds were the top teams, and they both wanted to sign me. The Liverpool scout, Tom Saunders, had me over for the weekend. I met Bill Shankly and a star-studded dressing room before a match against Manchester City - fantastic, what an experience! On the other hand, Leeds just stuck a contract in the post, and never spoke to me. I found that incredible. But that was nothing compared to my local team.

I'd always wanted to sign for Sunderland. One day, their scout turned up at our front door. Problem was, he was drunk. Drunk! So my father chased him down the street. By contrast, Malcolm Allison, the manager of Palace, jumped on a flight to Teesside Airport, and watched me play on a cold and wet Wednesday night in November. He was in his fedora, sheepskin coat, stood on the side of the pitch with his chairman, Ray Bloye. He turned a harmless schoolboy match into the FA Cup final. So my father insisted I sign for Palace.

It was Bobby Robson that got me the job in Trinidad. Newcastle United had a pre-season tour there in 2000, and he was asked to recommend a coach for one of the local clubs. To my surprise, he threw my name in the hat. I went for a week, had a look, and 14 years later I was still there.

My first club was San Juan Jabloteh - which really rolls off the tongue - in the Trinidad top division. It was a community club, good support, but it was full of rascals. All the rebels of football were playing there. The culture was unbelievable; it was so far from professionalism it was untrue. So I cleared them out, and handpicked the best under-17 players in the country.

If you mention Caribbean players to anyone in Europe, the first thing they say is: "They're lazy, they turn up late, they can't get themselves into gear" all that sort of stuff. So from day one, the discipline I installed was quite severe. We had a squad of 26 players, and more than half were losing 50 percent of their salary in fines every month. But the penny soon dropped. It started severe, but by the end it was just a threat in the background - something I didn't need to use.

In my first season, 2001, we came fifth out of ten teams. The management were saying: "My God, things must turn round - it must be better than this in the second year." In my second year we won the league - and we did it with a team full of youngsters that have gone on to win caps, play in World Cups, and do really good things. From there, most youngsters in the country wanted to join my operation at San Juan Jabloteh. It was a nice experience and a nice story - very difficult in the beginning, but very rewarding in the end.

In 2003, I moved back (to England) to manage Northampton. Why oh why? It didn't work out, and in March 2005 I came back to Trinidad, and took the San Juan job. In November 2005, the national team qualified for the World Cup, and the following six months were probably the best time I'd ever spent in Trini. The public reaction to qualification was enormous, and sponsors were coming from all over the Caribbean. The players - most from high-risk backgrounds -were rewarded with a million dollars.

Trinidad is volatile. The crime and violence can be horrendous. And they were literally putting these players - with a million dollars in their pockets - on the streets. They were fair game for anyone. Most of these kids today, the million dollars has gone. Some of them are scraping to get by. They couldn't handle themselves, they didn't have good management, and overnight they became playboys, superstars. I put a lot of blame not just on the football federation, but the government. A lot of things should have been managed a lot better. It's a sad story.

In 2005, the rivalry between the top two clubs (San Juan and W Connection) spilled over. In one game against them, their main guy (Brazilian midfielder Gefferson Goulart) scored a terrific goal against us. For whatever reason, he ran 80 yards - not towards his own bench, but to me in my technical area. He was shouting abuse at the only white guy in the stadium. As he came into the technical area, I stepped into him, and I elbowed him, basically. Knocked him to the floor.

If you back off, you're a laughing stock, and they've taken the p*ss out of you. I stood my ground. I shouldn't have done it, it wasn't great, but actually it helped my reputation in Trinidad. I stood my ground for my team, my players and myself. Six or eight months later, people realised that it wasn't the right thing to do, but they understood the reasons behind it. (Fenwick was banned for ten matches; Goulart was banned for two matches for offensive behaviour).

We won back to back titles with San Juan in 2007 and 2008. Then about 18 months ago I joined Central (another team in Trinidad's top division) and qualified for the Concacaf Champions League, and won the FA Cup and Toyota Cup. On the 17 June, I arrived in Belgium.

The move had been on the cards for around four to six months. The people behind the club (CS Visé) had bought players from me in Trinidad in the past, so it was a nice pat on the back: "We recognise the development you've done, and now we'd like you to do the same in Europe, while keeping your ties with the Caribbean and Central America."

We're in the third division, but I hope to get promotion this year (Vise have two wins out of four this season). We're professional, we train every day, and many of the clubs in the league are part-time. The people running the club have allowed me to bring in several talented young players, despite the healthy development programme at CS Vise. I've brought four players from Trinidad, and if it goes well, I might be back for one or two stunning young players in the January window.

I will open the door (to Europe) to good players from the Caribbean. I run my own youth development programme in Trinidad called the Football Factory with my partner Mike Smith, and we get close to one thousand people - aged 6 to 36 - training each week. Believe me, they can play. I keep my ties in Trinidad - my wife's from there, we've got property, and one or two business interests.

We get a winter break (in Belgium) so I'm sure the wife and I will head back to get some sun. The first five weeks we were in Belgium, it was blistering sunshine. I thought I was still in the Caribbean. Since then the weather has turned - surprise surprise! The wife can't believe it - all she brought was bikinis. But I'm enjoying it in Belgium. There are good players around me, good staff, and we're working hard together.

I do believe I'm a very good coach. I came through under a top-class coach in Terry Venables, and a top man-manager in Sir Bobby Robson. But now I've bolted several things on. And I think when you're in a country on your own, as I was in Trinidad, it makes you grow up very quick. I think it's helped my man-management - it's more than just coaching, it's more than just a couple of hours on the training ground, it's about getting into people's lives and backgrounds. Psychologically, youngsters from the Caribbean are brittle. There needs to be trust, friendship and a bond to get the best out of these guys.

I'm not sure whether I'd want to move back to English football. Of course if a big club came in, I'd be mad not to. But the pressure is so immense in the UK, and most managers don't deserve the treatment they get. Working in Trinidad, where there's not the same pressure, there is time to work with players, and develop my skill-set. I'd love to put that to use with Vise, get them up the leagues, and maybe even knock on the door of the first division.

Interview by @owenamos for

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