Brian Williams, the Dread Medusa, 'I am a true servant of TT Football'
TT's 1989 Strike Squad, Brian Williams, Back Row, third from the right.
Brian Williams Biofile:
Name: Brian Williams
Nickname: Willie Janks
Hometown: Santa Flora
Football Heroes: Franco Baresi, Franz Beckenbauer
Hero: Nelson Mandela and any black freedom fighter.
Favourite meal: Provision and beans.
Clubs: Tesoro, ASL, Trintoc, Trintopec, United Petrotrin.
By Veersen Bhoolai – December 29, 2019
Trinidad & Tobago produced a proliferation of talented Strikers and Midfielders during the latter part of the twentieth century; however, occasionally, there would be a Defender who captured the imagination of the masses.
One such man, was the Dread Medusa, Brian Williams. A roving Right Back with an incredibly long throw, he starred against the best the world had to offer. His skill, humility and calm demeanour endearing him to the public.
Today, Williams is one of the top Youth Coaches in the country, however, in the mid seventies the teenager from Palo Seco, Trinidad, was being earmarked for future national honours.
From Ball Boy to International
Williams’ earliest football memories is as a youngster in Primary School. “I was reading a children’s book (name forgotten) and it said ‘Brian scored the only goal.’ And I did that in Primary School.
“I was ambitious, I was the Ball Boy for the National Team in 1973. I was 12 years old. My mother along with Mrs. Vidale (Edgar Vidale’s wife) would make the meals for the National Team while they were in training. I would visit them while they trained in Palo Seco.” Thus, at a young age, “I wanted to play for TT.”
Young Williams was also an aspiring allrounder in Cricket, bowling medium pace. “My father had doubts about my
Football. He thought I was better at Cricket and he also had played a lot of Cricket.”
Amazingly, a man who would go on to be a Football icon for almost a decade and a half, played no school Football
during his years at Santa Flora Primary Government School, Penal Jr. Secondary and Siparia Senior Comprehensive
as they had no program.
His first Football Coach, was ex National Striker, Edgar Vidale. “He was the Tesoro Coach. He molded me well and
was the drive of my early upbringing.”
He made his First Division debut at 14 for the Tesoro Sporting Club. At 17 he was invited to train with the Trinidad Sr. Team in 1978, the following year he was selected to the National Youth Team, with teammates, such as Vernon Skinner (Captain), Curtis Riley and Clayton Morris.
Moving on from Tesoro, spending the eighties with the best clubs the country had to offer, Aviation Service Ltd. (ASL), Trintoc, Trintopec and United Petrotrin.
He explains that although ASL was the lone Pro team in the country at the time, that he was playing and working full time to support his family as he was dubious as to how reliable Pro Football in TT could be.
“My father had migrated to Calgary and I was the sole provider for my Mother and two sisters. I was concerned about going totally pro.”
In addition to training with ASL, he worked as a Cargo Agent for the company during his four odd years there. At Trintopec, he was employed in the Materials Department.
Facing off against Zico and Socrates
During his time with ASL he played against some of the best clubs in the world, constantly holding his own. During the early and mid-eighties ASL owner, Arthur Suite brought down such teams as Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs, FC Gothenburg but perhaps it was the confrontations between World Club Champion, Flamengo and fellow Brazilian Club, Corinthians Paulista that stand out the most.
The 1982 World Cup in Spain had concluded in June and Brazil had gone down on record as arguably the best team to not win a WC. Names such as Zico, Eder and Socrates known to everyone and they were coming to TT.
First came the World Club Champion, a National Stadium filled to the max, saw the likes of Zico, Eder and Junior. No matter how Flamengo tried, ASL, marshalled by Williams in Defence and with the fans beating drums and iron in support, stood firm and after 45 minutes it was 0-0.
A right footer by Leric “Lobo” Joseph into the far left, pus ASL up in front in the second half. Flamengo. Two goals saw the Brazilians take the lead and then a bad back pass to Goalkeeper, John Granville who had done yeoman service that night, was pounced upon and scored. The 3-1 result may have been a disappointment but fans left with an even greater respect for the two Rastafarians on the pitch, Joseph and Williams.
The match was marred by a fan who rushed onto the field and seemed to want to attack Williams. He was tackled and brought down by security adding more drama to an already intense affair. Williams is honest and says he does not really know if it was an attack or if the fan was simply trying to touch his hair. He explained that after a WC qualifier vs Honduras in 1989, while getting on to the bus, “… a spectator tried to pull my locks. I pulled away so I really don’t know if it was an attack or not.”
A few months later it was Corinthians. Despite a fantastic long range effort by Garnet Craig and a magnificent header by Lobo Joseph who seemed to be partially floating in midair, the home team was nevertheless hammered 8-2.
Thirty seven years later, Williams is still in awe of the Brazil/Corinthians Captain, Socrates. “To me, although I was playing, I was more admiring Socrates’ technical ability as a player. His elegance, he was like a ballet dancer or a peacock.” Williams continues, “His first touch, his passing range, every time he got the ball his decision making and passing was effortless. Never a problem.” He adds, “It was an honour
and a joy to play against him.”
A lack of international exposure
Despite a highly talented team, TT seemed to underperform during qualification for the 1982/86 World Cups. To add insult to
injury, TTFA Secretary, Jack Warner had sold TT’s home rights to the US and they played both games in their opponent’s back yard
during the ’86 qualification series.
Williams sums this up as result of a wanting Administration and a lack of proper exposure abroad. “Our exposure outside of TT
was limited. You need to be on the road, have good international games in different environments … challenged by an outside
environment. The intimidation of crowds in a stadium that carry those extra butterflies more than usual. You need to be able to
adjust to international football away from home.”
Despite ASL’s dominance of the local league, they had limited or no representation at Concacaf Club level due to Suite’s League being
deemed illegal by the TTFA at various times.
Williams did however, enjoy some Concacaf success with Trintoc in 1986/87. Making it all the way to the Semi Final in 1986, they lost to
Transvaal (Suriname) on penalty kicks in TT. The following year they lost again in the Semis, this time to Defence Force (1-2, 1-1).
November 19, 1989
An unforgettable moment for him and the country would be November 19, 1989. TT needing just one point vs the USA in POS lost 1-0
creating a nationwide heartbreak, the likes never before seen.
Dubbed the Strike Squad, the team perhaps had shocked the nation be making it this far.
Williams reflects, “Nineteen eighty nine was a really good one for TT. I thank the country for the support. A lot of those players came from the (National) Youth Team. We spent a lot of time together. There was a certain cohesiveness – team spirit. We surprised ourselves as to how competitive we were as a Football team.”
He admits the national fervor evoked just before the game took the team by surprise. Tucked away at the Forest Reserve Camp in the South, “We were in … the bush … training morning and evening. We would only leave to play, travel or visit family. We were not aware of the hype. We had no TV in our rooms. We were just on Football.”
The Administration was maligned for having the team travel from the deep South to POS whilst the American were just minutes away from the National Stadium. However, Williams has a different view. “People in Trinidad like to jump on the bandwagon after a team does well. Where were all the crowds and traffic before?” He explains, “Gally (Cummings) came to us and asked what we wanted to do. If we wanted to move to POS. We said no, we wanted to maintain our routine.” He continues, “We had a routine like stopping at the church before the game to pray. We agreed not to change anything. Why should we change what was making us so successful? When we got up on the morning of the match, there were cars lined up outside Forest Reserve.” When they arrived at the church, “People were in front of the church, in the pews.” He laments, “Can you imagine we had to go through all these obstacles before arriving at the venue to play – the stress, the strain. We underperformed. We were mentally tired.”
When they finally arrived at the Stadium, “The Army had to form a human barrier for us to come off the bus.” He concludes, “It was unforeseen, the occasion rose above us.”
The Government had actually given a National Holiday (in advance) the day after the game, anticipating a victory. “The stores had run out of red fabric. “However, with all due respect to the 1973 team and the Soca Warriors of 2006, this was unforeseen. It was the first time the country had come together in such a meaningful way. People’s hearts were so dear to the TT Strike Squad. I thank TT for their support.”
The TTFA put up a big screen at the Queen’s Park Oval and sold out both the Oval and the Stadium. Considering the gate and Advertising Revenue amongst others, they probably grossed well over three million dollars. They were reported in the Press as having broke even. The players never received any sort of financial gain from that day. However, Williams was recognized by the Jamaican Football Federation as the MVP of the match and give a one week holiday at a hotel in Montego Bay. “I went with my girlfriend.”
Despite nothing coming from the TTFA, he makes it clear that he does not fixate upon it. “What value could it do now? I want to go forward, all is well with me. I realize you Journalists have to write about it so it doesn’t happen to other teams."
Reflecting further on the Strike Squad days, “Besides the unification of TT, visiting the Primary school kids stands out for me. I remember visiting Newtown Primary School and the kids mobbing me. There were so many, I fell to the ground.”
He points out that there is a site on the internet that says he only played 25 times for the National Team. “I am sure the number is really closer to a hundred, at least over 70. Make sure and put that in your article.”
After 13 years on the international stage and at just 32, Williams retired from the National Team in 1993. “They say if you str in the Tunnel and you don’t feel the butterflies in your stomach anymore, it’s time to go.”
He continued his career with United Petrotrin. They made it to the Concacaf Club Champions Quarter Final stage vs DC United, losing 1-0 in the US (1997). He retired at the end of that season.
Life after Football
Williams then entered the realm of Coaching and has considerable success with W Connection’s Youth Program. He was the Assistant Coach for the National Sr. Team under Stuart Charles Fevrier in the buildup to the 2006 WC. He has also Coached TT at the U-16 and U-20 level.
Earlier this year he Coached San Fernando Giants to the Ascension League title and fourth position in the curtailed Super League.
Some of the best
Having played with TT’s best during his distinguished career, he reflects upon some of them:
Earl Carter – “Great physical motivator. Hard worker in training, very competitive. He was an elder to me. He embraced me as a young player. He loved to run and train hard.”
Michael Maurice – “A hard worker, fun to be with. Good team man. He always seemed to be helping players even if they were his competitors. He always embraced the young keepers. He trained and taught them. He had similar training attitudes to Earl Carter.”
John Granville - “John was more reserved. He was methodical and well spoken. He was a little better (thank Carter and Maurice) in organizing the Defence and talking to the back four.”
Clayton Morris – “JB came to the National Team shortly after me. He was not strong but he had good leadership qualities as a young boy. Most of our players in the past had less distractions in comparison to now. He was a star in training. A nice brother, someone you could go to and sort out problems.”
Ron La Forest – “Ronnie is a good friend of mine. When I came to the NT, he was an elder to me. He was very result oriented. Ronnie don’t like to lose. He liked the responsibility for getting a result. He would play to score so he would get a little annoyed if you were not giving him enough ball. Ron La Forest wanted to score every game. He was technically good and a good dribbler … a great example to our Strikers today.”
Leroy Spann – “He was the Daddy to all of us. A great motivator and a hard trainer. He would look at a game or the opposition from a coaching perspective.” He continues, “The Spanner is from Leroy Spann. He liked his left foot. He would shift and come back to the left foot again. We called it ‘the Spanner.’”
Dwight Yorke – “Oooh – When he first came to the National Team, Gally put him to room with me as I was a senior player. I would be the one to say ‘Dwight get up. Dwight was your boots.’ He was an exceptional brother in Training. Great work rate. No answer back. No obscenity. A sweetheart of the game. He remembers our early days and whenever he sees me, he thanks me for my mentorship and leadership.”
Russel Latapy – Exceptional. He was willing to try things outside of the box. His centre of gravity was great. His Football awareness, surprising vision and passing range added value to the teams he played with. He was comparable to the best but he could have increased his work rate.
Clint Marcelle – “He came to the National Team as a youngster, right out of the College’s League. He was a quick player. He could run well with the ball at top speed. He was very effective and made it difficult for Wing Backs. He was like Bert Neptune, he could run with the ball with both feet. He had a good eye for goal. He loved to score goals. He could change direction and poach balls in the space.”
A roving Right Back who could influence the game up front, Williams was also known for a fantastic long throw, parallel to the box, it was practically a corner. He explains there was no great science to it. He stands up and pretends to release a ball. “I wasn’t trying to throw far, I just released it and let it go.”
Terry Fenwick and the future of TT Football
He believes that the hiring of Terry Fenwick is the right step if TT Football is to go forward. “Looking at our present situation, I support the decision. He has an awareness of the players. He has been in TT for the last years 20 years. He is very result oriented and has had success with San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC.” He continues, “Our Football needs a revival and Terry Fenwick at this point in time can move TT forward. He can bring back an interest in TT Football.
“In all humility, I am a true servant of TT Football. I played for TT for over 15 years. I have all my Football interests invested in TT. We have great ambition and talent. Once it is nurtured well, we can move in a positive way.”
Williams emphasizes that a restructuring of the Football League is of the essence. “We need a National League with a Second Division and then the Zonal Leagues and have proper promotion and relegation.” He stresses that “ … anybody with money can have a Pro team, they do not have to go through a qualifying process. But that does not mean the team is necessarily good enough.” He continues, “There is no promotion or demotion in the Pro League. You have two government teams, if there is a national emergency, Army and Police can’t play.”
He says that TT should have “piggy backed” on its 2006 WC success but we have fallen down.” He believes there has been unwarranted, harsh, criticism of former TTFA President/W Connection Owner, David John Williams. “He has made a meaningful contribution. He has given us a Home for Football.
All countries have a Home for Football. Sometimes the NT can’t train at the (National) Stadium because there is a fete match. That shouldn’t happen. “ He explains that TT Football has to “start all over again. Mexico, the USA, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica are all in front of us.” He adds, “There is no secret to preparation anymore. It’s money. Who has more corn go feed more fowl.”
One of the first Rastafarian Superstars in TT Football, he says he never really experienced any form of discrimination. I won two WITCO Awards in 1980/81 as TT Footballer of the Year. I was also co MVP at the CFU Championships in 1983.”
He believes the only “indirect” discrimination he ever experienced was when TT Manager, Brigadier Ralph Brown asked him if he would cut his hair while on the NT. His response was “No, I can’t do that.” He surmises that Brown was assessing his possibility of joining the Defence Force.
Composure, strength, skill and intelligence
Ronnie Simmons, another sturdy Defender from the 1980s offers his opinion on Williams, “I’ve always admired Brian’s game. I first met him when I was on the National Youth Team and he was on the Senior. We used to train at the back grounds of UWI. He was the most complete, versatile, Defender, I’ve ever seen, composure, strength, skill and intelligence. Great guy. I was privileged to play with him during the interrupted Shell Cup in TT (the 1990 coup attempt in TT). I tried to copy many aspects of his game. I would have loved to have seen him play abroad.”
He was offered a trial with Club Nacional of Uruguay during the WC qualification period in 1989. However, he and Management agreed that any offers would be put on hold until the qualifiers were over. “Nothing came of it after that.”
Williams looks back at his career with no regrets. “I am happy with my career. Like any footballer, I had aspirations, it would have been nice to have played in a World Cup or in Europe. I would have enjoyed that. Even up to now, I admire the EPL as one of the best leagues in the world.
Perhaps Williams’ career can best be summed by Richard Chinapoo (New York Cosmos/TT), “Brian
was a player that comes along every few years that embodies what ‘teammate’ really means.
A talented, dedicated and proud Trinbagonian who put his team and country first. He could and
would talk to anyone on the team, work hard at Practices, lead by example and bring his unique
talents to the game. An overlapping Fullback with skills, vision and a winning mentality.
"It was unforeseen. The situation rose above us." Brian Williams describing the transportation shambles of Nov. 19, 1989.
TT NYT 1979, Back Row, l-r: Winston B Phillips (Assitant Coach); Gary Adams, Trainer (deceased); Nigel Clarke; Gary Lakwa (sp); Brian Williams; Vernon Skinner (Capt.); Brian Haynes, Curtis Riley and Philbert Prince (Coach). Middle Row, l-r: Wendel Belgrave (deceased), ?; Keith Sheppard; Peter Power; Clayton Morris; Ellery Joyo; John Nedd, Kelvin Jones and Desmond O'brien (Mananger). Front Row, l-r: John Castillano; Shed Hewitt; Ricardo Bailey; Bobby King; Errol Lovell, ? and Peter Alfred.