Optimism, activity fuel Grenada ahead of WCQ

Grenada (pictured) during a training session on February 14, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Grenada Football Association)

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada – A slate of international friendlies, the possibility of a new head coach and an intensive drive to recruit overseas players, represent exciting times ahead for Grenada as it prepares for 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.

Grenada Football Association (GFA) President Cheney Joseph said his organization was working feverishly on a number of plans which, once realized, would enhance the national team’s chances on the Road to Russia.

Already, the GFA has scheduled a pair of friendlies at Bermuda next month and is in negotiations for other fixtures, before facing Puerto Rico in the second round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers starting in June.

“It is good news that for the first time in many years we are having very good preparation,” Joseph told CONCACAF.com.  “I think the advantage we have this time around is that most of the home-grown players are available for training.

“We are hoping that while according to the FIFA rankings, Bermuda may be seeded some 20 spots down, we’re going to use that friendly as a measuring stick to see where we are at, ahead of the World Cup qualifier in June.

“We are also currently completing discussions with Guyana to play two games there in April and we also go off to St Lucia to play the Windward Islands tournament, so we’re looking at about seven games that hopefully we’re going to have before we engage Puerto Rico.”

Grenada, fielding a squad comprised largely of domestic-based players, suffered an early exit from the CFU Caribbean Cup last September.

The GFA, though, is targeting several eligible players in England and Scotland, whom it believes can help strengthen the roster.

“We’re just hoping that complimenting the home grown players will be those international players that we are able to secure for the first game,” Joseph said.  “We are already in discussions with some of these overseas-based players.  This time around, we have a large pool to choose from, maybe more than 15 international players, playing not at the lower divisions, but at the Championship level [in England].

“We also know of two in Scotland – Myles Hippolyte and Anthony Straker – and we may just have Shalrie Joseph to give Grenadians the last chance to see him internationally.  We want to create a balance between home-grown and overseas-based players, but we are trying to ensure that every single player who qualifies to represent Grenada is contacted.”

It is also hoped that former England under-19 head coach Noel Blake can be brought on board to lead the technical staff. 

“Presently, the technical staff is 100 per cent local,” finished Joseph.  “However, we have started discussions with an international coach and I think it is a matter of the GFA finalising arrangements.  We are hoping that we can close off on discussions and get him as soon as possible.”