“The main challenge is to get the team to believe,” said Lawrence, an assistant at Wigan when they won the FA Cup in 2013 and a development coach at Everton after that. Still just 42, he’s a man with his own ideas. He’s deliberate in his manner and humble in his speech, but he has the courage of his convictions. He even tapped former Arsenal playing legend Sol Campbell to be one of his assistant coaches in a handpicked backroom staff. “The battle is really against ourselves. We reached the Hexagonal, so we’re here for a reason. We need to understand that. We can beat any of these five teams on our day.”
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There aren’t many Trinidadians who know what it takes to qualify for a World Cup. But Lawrence is one of them. He knows first-hand about the sacrifices and the challenges. He even scored the winning goal – one of only five in his international career – in the second leg of the play-off in Bahrain. But humility won’t let him boast about it. “I think I scored it,” he laughed when prodded, before adding: “It was a header.”
Trinidad and Tobago were the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup, but they’ve hit on hard times since. They recently lost at home to Suriname and Haiti, results that eliminated them from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and cost former coach Tom Saintfiet his job after only 35 days.
Of the current squad, only Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards remember what the grass smelled like in Germany. Lawrence will need these two veterans to be a beacon for youngsters like Dutch-based Levi Garcia, a phenom who was only ten when T&T were punching above their weight on the world stage. “They were a part of those days,” Lawrence said. “If they lead by example, the young boys will follow.”