T&T captain Kenwyne Jones believes that this country's senior team could be heading into the start of another World Cup campaign that could help propel this country to a grand international stage as it was in 2006.
Jones was speaking following the team's training session at the Maracana Stadium, in Panama City, on Monday evening, as the "Soca Warriors" prepared for tomorrow's international friendly with Panama at 9.30 pm (T&T time).
Jones returns to the team as the skipper after missing last month's 3-3 draw with Mexico, in Utah. Also arriving on Monday night to complete the squad were European-based trio Sheldon Bateau, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Jonathan Glenn.
Jones celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday and was serenaded by his teammates who presented him with a birthday cake at dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Panama City.
As he prepares for another rigorous international campaign, the Cardiff City man said he was accustomed spending birthdays with his teammates and away from family over years.
"I think it's very important for us to come together at this time and support the team. Without the support of the private sector and sponsors, we can't have games or afford to put on camps. We are coming up to very crucial period," Jones said.
"We are on the brink of going either way... either doing very well or going into the opposite direction. Coming out of the Gold Cup, at least you can see the progress of the team after two years with the coach and now we are looking very positive going into the qualifiers. There is a very positive feeling about our qualifying chances but it is really important that we get support to be able to help the team prepare properly," Jones added.
Looking ahead to the Panama encounter at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium and then the friendly against Nicaragua in Port of Spain on October 13, the former Sunderland forward sees it fitting in well to the team's build up for Guatemala and United States next month.
"It's another game for us to continue the togetherness that we have been building over the past few months. It's a chance for us to play two Central American teams away from home and then at home. It will give the coach an opportunity to select his best possible squad for the start of the qualifiers, and of course we as players will maximise the opportunity presented in these two international matches," he said.
Hart conducted a one-hour session yesterday morning on artificial turf at the Estadio Luis Cascarita and went through another session at 8pm. Scores of young players looked on from the stands at T&T's session at the venue which is located a stone's throw away from the Rommel Fernandez Stadium.
"We've had to train on artificial surfaces for two sessions so far but these are things you face when you play on the road and it's all part of the overall preparation for playing teams away from home in the qualification," Hart said.
"But the spirit of the team is good and the guys all seem raring to get on with the job. It's good to see the players fit and healthy and eager to represent the country. We'll take these two games in stride ahead of the start of our qualifying campaign in November," Hart added.
Thursday's match will be broadcasted live on Flow channel 99.
Tickets for Oct 13 available at:
The Fan Club (Movietowne, Gulf City and Trincity Mall)
Sports & Games
online at www.islandetickets.com
Cost $200 (covered) and $100 (uncovered). Kick off is 7pm.