By Veersen Bhoolai,
March 31, 2019
As TT football enjoyed a football high during the nineteen seventies, three of their key Goalkeepers saw their career coming to an end, Lincoln Phillips, Kelvin Barclay and Gerald Figeroux.
However, the TTFA need not have feared because in the wings were a quartet of talented custodians waiting to take over the reins: Earl Carter, John Granville, Johnathan Will and Michael Maurice. Granville and Maurice would have lengthy careers for the TT Senior team, with Granville eventually playing in England and Maurice being the man between the uprights for the famed Strike Squad.
Carter, who played very little football as a youngster and got into goalkeeping by accident, would become one of the country’s greats and play alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.
The TT 1974 Youth team is considered one of the country’s finest ever, with names such as Carter, Granville, Richard Chinapoo and Derrick Lewis.
Peter “Deeks” Decouteaux was a QRC defender who played for TT at the first ever CONCACAF Youth tournament in Canada in ’74. He recounts how difficult it was to choose between the Goalkeepers “Michael was on trial with our ‘74 team. He was absolutely brilliant during the trials. The selectors were sure of Spider-Man Carter and John Granville(Tobago). The choice for the final ‘keeper was between Maurice and Johnathan Wills, also from South. Towards the end of the trials, Wills performed so strongly, that the selectors were in a quandary between him and Maurice. They decided on taking Wills. Maurice was young, they concluded that he would be chosen for the next youth tournament. Then the next tournament they age limit was changed. So he never played for the Youth Team.
TT played well in the early stages coming second in a group with Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. They beat the US in the second round, only to surprisingly lose to Cuba (2-0) in the semis.
Carter was voted Goalkeeper of the tournament and one of his saves vs Mexcio – save of the tournament.
Decouteau remembers the Mexican encounter well, “At the Toronto tournament, Earl was … one one of the outstanding players .... There was a save he made against Mexican great, Hugo Sanchez. We were grouped with the favorite Mexico. The Mex. team was a machine. They beat everybody except us. We tied 0-0. They pressed us and we counter attacked with speed. But there was an attack in which our Right Back lost sight of Sanchez as a crossed ball came over. Sanchez volleyed one time. Everybody bawled out GOAL!! But somehow Spidey dived to his right and preserved the tie. Our team piled on one another and cried when the game was over. We had a wicked rhythm section in the bus going back to the University of Ottawa where we stayed. Lead vocals was of course, Spidey.”
Carter claims that one of the reasons he performed so well vs Mexico was due to a mistake he had made in the previous game vs Costa Rica. “I made the best save in the tournament vs Mexico but my best performance was against Costa Rica.” Ironically, so was his biggest mistake.
With TT leading Los Ticos 1-0 “and all the camera men were behind me because I was making impossible saves, CR was given a Free Kick with 15 minutes to go. There was a little boy behind the Goal talking to me. He asked, ‘if you get a contract, will you take it?’ I was talking to the kid and lost concentration. The FK was to my right. I held on to it but because I was walking back to the goal, I pushed it in. I cried and then the next day and the next day (after that).
“I was determined to rectify that problem and I made that impossible save against Mexico.” He reflects, “They (Mexico) were running through us. Oh my God, I was making some impossible saves.
“I told them before the tournament that I would become the best and I did.”
TT was expected to roll through Cuba. Carter explains that the food at the hotel in Toronto did not agree with him. He was eating apples and grapes to supplement the problem. “I was dehydrated… I did not perform at my best … I lacked carbohydrates but I didn’t realize it.
In a game which TT dominated, Cuba managed two goals against the run of play. “We played all over them. The ball hit the post and then went over and hit the other post. We were that unlucky. A shot hit the Goalkeeper on the head and went out of play.”
The score was 0-0 at the half, Coach Alvin Corneal tried to motivate his team which was still highly confident that they would win. But it was Castro’s men who came out on top.
Later that night at the Games Village, the Mexican Technical staff sought out the TT team and thanked them. They had expected a fight against TT but with Cuba in the final they were sure they would win – which they did.
Regarding one of the reserve ‘keepers, Johnathan Wills, Carter says, “People did not see the best of him. He began to lose his eyesight and played in the outfield.”
Ajax – a lost opportunity
Such was the pedigree of the team that four members were offered a trial with Ajax in Holland, Carter; Winty Hackett, Michael Grayson and Kendall Walkes.
Andre Kamperveen, the Surinamese member of Concacaf told Carter that the permission had to come through Corneal, as they were not full adults. Whilst at the TT Consulate in Toronto, Carter was informed that “Six NASL clubs are interested in you.
“Alvin kill that, says Carter. “No one went to Holland, we needed permission from Alvin.”
Corneal has a completely different take on the matter, “ … National Coaches were never allowed to make decisions for the TTFA with regards to players joining the professional ranks of any club anywhere.”
Carter came back to TT determined that he could become the best in the world. Kelvin Barclay had been voted
goalkeeper of the tournament at the Concacaf WC qualifiers the previous year. With Carter chosen as the GK of the youth tournament it was the motivation he needed that he could perform internationally.
His boyhood dream had been to play for the NY Cosmos. One day in the early seventies he saw Gally Cummings and asked him how he could do this. "Gally told me, 'You have to be a professional to play for the NY Cosmos and you are not a professional so you can't play for them.'"
But the youngster later to be known to the masses as Spider-Man would not be deterred.
He had left the Eddie Hart League and moved to Belmont Colts in POS in 1973 with the hopes of being noticed
for the National Team. With the respect of the Concacaf tournament under his belt, he played for Maple and then Malvern from '74-'75. He explains he left Colts simply because two GKs, Bobby Romain and Ian Andrews were
not putting in the same effort as him, "They did not always show up for practice," yet they were ahead of him in
the pecking order.
Selected for the Panam Games in 1975, the TT team had problems with the altitude of Toluca and Mexico City.
Despite a 6-1 hammering from the hosts in Toluca, incredibly it was Carter, the Goalkeeper of the losing team
that was voted Player of the Match. “After that game I was called the Gorilla from Manilla because of the
determination I showed (despite) the breathing problems of the team at high altitude.”
He decided to use Suriname as a backdoor to Holland and got a pro contract with Leo Victor in 1976. However, "I was not eating well and was not in form." Kamperveen, explained that he had to improve before the clubs in Holland could be contacted. Later that year, invited to train with the TT team, he resigned his government job in Suriname and returned to TT.
He was under the impression that Corneal had organized a trial with Shrewsbury Town of the EFL's Third Division in 1977. Corneal knew the Shrewsbury Coach and in the TT Express was a headline Earl Carter on trial with Shrewsbury. Amral's travel sponsored the ticket to England and Carter and Corneal picked it up together.
After a month of training, he asked the Shrewsbury staff what were his chances of getting a contract. "The coach stated I was the best goalkeeper in the world In distribution … . They said to me they had never seen any goalkeeper with such a level of distribution.” However, he was simply there for a training stint and at no point had they ever told Corneal that there would be an offer. They praised his ability. However, "'We have no use for you.'" Citing financial difficulties, they were in need of a goal scorer or a midfielder. In addition, the time for a purchase was during the transfer window in Christmas or pre-season not at the end of the season.
Carter explains, "Alvin Corneal has said publicly it was not a trial, it was a training stint. But he was there with me at Amral's and they thought they were sponsoring a trial. Everyone understood it was a trial"
Playing for TECSA in 1977, he was irrepressible. One goal was scored on him in the first round and five penalties in the second. It was around this time he was given the "Spider-Man," moniker. A fellow by the name of "'Hound,'" asked him one day, "'Can you tell me why nobody can score on you. You have to be a Spider-Man. How they can't score on you." He would walk around games with money in his hand, taking bets, "'Who against the Spider-Man. Nobody could score on the Spider-Man."
The Cosmos, Race, King Pele and No to the NY Giants
Two years later a bold Carter approached the Cosmos Management at the TT Hilton and requested a trial. The Cosmos were scheduled to a play a TT All Stars team at the oval. Organizer, Patrick Raymond and Carter approached their Management who had arrived six weeks before the game. Simply put, he was famous enough.
"'They said to me, Pele can bring ten thousand, Beckenbauer can bring in ten thousand. Does anybody know you. How many people know you?'" Carter was aware but he did have a following in Brooklyn.
The Assistant Coach and the Manager said "You might be good. But we need a name and ability." Six weeks later they would have a very quick change of mind.
The All Stars drew 1-1 before fifteen thousand at the Queen's Park Oval. The highlight for Carter was a spectacular save against Giorgio Chinaglia who had played for Italy in the '74 World Cup. "There was a throw in from my left. It came into the box to Chinaglia. His back was to me. I saw him jump and thought he was going to head or chest trap it. I moved from a ready to a relaxed position. He hit a bicycle kick to my left in the V. I just dived backwards and pushed it over the bar."
An amazed Chinaglia walked over to him and slapped him twice, "'You fuc%*^% good.'”
An even more amazed Carter responded, "What the fu%^& you doing?"
‘You fu%^*& good. You know that.’” Chinaglia laughed, Carter laughed and the game continued.
He left immediately after that for a trial with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “They had me doing demonstrations for their number one GK. He was struggling with shots from angles. So we did demos with shots from the near and far post. They wanted to sign me but they were in talks with a Canadian and had to finish negotiations with him before they could decide.”
The moment Carter arrived back in TT, he was spotted by someone who told him the Manager of the ’74 Youth Team, Arnold “Chicken” Leoteau said to call him. “’The NY Cosmos want you right now,’” explained Leoteau. The Cosmos were in Colombia and a ticket was sent for him to go to NY.
Against the odds the Spider-Man was coming to New York. His boyhood dream realized, he was set to take on the world and by his side would be Chinaglia, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.
But like other opportunities in Carter’s career, it would be an experience fraught with friction.
Carter had five injuries in six weeks. He explains, “I am a bouncing type of Goalkeeper. I dive and bounce off the ground and the astro turf wasn’t good for me. I had a pinched cartilage in my left knee.
He played an exhibition vs Mexican club, Guadalajara at Candlestick Stadium, San Francisco (2-2). “I played such a high quality that when they called my name at the beginning of the game about three people clapped. By half time, I couldn’t go into the Dressing room, people were trying to get my autograph and speak to me.”
The youngster from Tacarigua had made an impression in just his first game. An NASL Executive entered the C-shaped Dressing room and asked “’Where is the ‘Keeper?’”
‘The one who just played.’”
The players pointed and the Exec walked over, ‘”Young man your performance was of such a high standard that I had to congratulate you. I know we are going to see you in many more games and I had to talk to you.’ The whole team gave me a standing ovation.”
Regarding his contract, “Looking back you see how deceitful some of these business people are.” He was told to sign his contract the day before the Cosmos’ first game vs the California Surf.
“ They came to me at 2:30 pm on the Thursday before the game. Why not that morning or the day before?” Carter was told he had to sign the contract that very day. “
Explaining that he needed the advice of his agent before doing so, “’They said ‘Go ahead.’”
Patrick Raymond was his agent and had told him not to sign a contract without conferring with him “’ … because you do not understand how to negotiate a contract.’”
I called Patrick Raymond, he was not there. I called the TTFA and asked for Jack Warner, he wasn’t there. I called back Patrick and tried Alvin Corneal.” With none of these individuals available, “I called back the TTFA and Harold Taylor answered, “I said Mr. Taylor I have to sign my contract today and I need some help because I don’t know how to. He said to me, ‘I have no time. I am doing my work.’ I say you know what, I just went and sign the contract.”
Without realizing it, he had signed a month to month contract for a year. “None of them would have said yes to that.”
Carter signed on a Thursday, on Friday night his Coach knocked on his door at 8:30 pm. “’Earl, I have good news and bad news. Management wants me to fire you, they are against me having too many blacks on the team. They want me to bring Jack Brand from Canada. He is not in your class, I will accept him because I have to but after one month, I will get rid of him.’”
I saw Jack Brand in training. He was not better than me even if I was injured. It was so ridiculous.”
However, Carter believes the NASL Players’ strike aggravated matters even more.
As Carter puts it, the less famous players in the NASl were being abused, they formed a Union. He explains that the NYC rep, Bobby Smith explained that 23 of the 42 Cosmos players had already said yes for a strike. The two abstainees were Beckenbauer and Dennis Stewart. Carter’s vote would not have made any difference but he was asked if he wished to and said “Yes.”
All the clubs were watching the Cosmos, whatever they did, the others would follow. There was a notice at the Cosmos training area which said “’An alien worker with and H1/2 Visa who goes to work while there is a strike can be deported.’”
He observed some of the top Cosmos players such as Beckenbauer and Francisco Marinho coming out of an office one by one. Firmani was heading out to the bus for their game vs Atlanta. Carter ran after him and asked about the Immigration notice, “Is it true? I asked him what to do.”
Firmani’s response was “’My job is to take the team to Atlanta.’”
A confused Carter had to make a decision. “I said to myself, Jesus Christ, if I break the immigration rules, they will send me back to TT. I cah make dat. What he later found out was that the name players coming out of the office had been spoken to by Owner, Steve Ross, the owner of Time Warner. The players had been promised all their money if they were to be penalized for playing.
“One month after the strike, they got rid of me. Firmani explained, “’Don’t go back to TT. You are to good. Keep training and I will help you to get a contract.’” A few weeks later with Firmani in Philadelphia assessing other job opportunities as he was tired of being pressured by Admin on which players to choose, Carter made his way into Yankee Stadium. The Assistant Manager saw him and asked, “’What are you doing here?’” He explained that Firmani had told him to stay and continue training. “’No, we don’t need you here. Get out.’”
Francisco Marinho was my best friend at the Cosmos. He said to me, ‘No, no, no, they fired you? You have to play in Brazil. I will make it my duty.’”
Marinho wanted him to go to his old club, Botafogo in Brazil. “The money was not much but I didn’t realize that they would pay me in US dollars. Also, I could have used the Brazilian league to pursue a chance in Europe. I messed up.”
Carter confesses, he “messed up” again by not approaching Pele’s agent. On or more one occasion Carter had visited the Cosmos’ office in the Rockefeller Plaza. He admits he should have taken advantage of the agent’s presence in an attempt to crash the Brazilian league. “I should’ve talked to him.”
His agent, Patrick Raymond, came to the USA and “disappeared. I was frustrated.”
Carter laments, “Racism can affect so many good things. Every player could see my performance including Management but they chose to look another way which is in the area of color instead of talent.”
Warned that if he went on strike, he would have to foot his own bill at the hotel. When he enquired what the cost was at the Sheraton, it was a whopping $175 a month. He managed to find a room and even spurned a trial from the New York Giants as a Wide Receiver. He had ignored them as he did not want a distraction from his soccer “and even on my final day they were speaking to me in the parking lot.”
A number of NASL teams were interested in him. But then they asked, “’Do you have a Green Card?’” Carter explains such was the authority of the Cosmos, that he had been allowed to play without one. He even opened an account at NY Bank without a Social Security number. “The Cosmos had two jets, their players were the highest paid in the world. He believes race again reared its ugly head. “They were all interested in me, (but he had no Green Card), however, I know one player from Scotland who got his in a week.”
There were certain cliques within the Cosmos. Some of the bigger players would not speak to the less famous ones. Carter, however, emphasizes that he got along well with Beckenbauer; Chinaglia, Maurihno and Vladislav Bogicevic. “They had respect for me (due to his ability). However, “ … Pele was more humble than the others. He was as humble as he was great. He would reach out to you more. The King would make you feel relaxed. He would start talking to you first. Others would walk straight past you. He would never make you feel like he was the King. ”
He emphasizes that watching Pele on tape and training with him was completely different. “In training he was a perfectionist. He had eyes in the back of his head. How could you make those passes!” He adds, “Some people say that he is overrated. They were never on the field with him.”
Back in TT he signed up for K&SI Phoenix, the lone pro club in the country. However, after his time with the NY Cosmos, he could not handle what he considered the disorganization of club football in TT. “I looked at how inefficient the structure was in TT, I said I can’t stay here anymore.” He took up an Assistant Coaching position at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey.
In the meantime, he trained with Richard Chinapoo’s team the New York Atlas. “Their Coach, Gil Mardarescu (sp) said anywhere in the world he went, he wanted me.” However, by the end of ’79, Carter’s agent, Eddie Balla, had organized a trial with Greek giants, Panathinaikos, for the following year.
Panathinaikos, a lost opportunity
Training with Corneal’s WC squad in 1980, Carter was biding his time regarding his trial in Greece that June. He cites the conditions as terrible and that the players were “distraught.” Especially the Army players. They were working shifts and sometimes they had nothing to eat or drink. They had to perform on an empty stomach. One player from Tobago had to go home sometimes and he didn’t know how. Sometimes there was no car to take him to the airport. I had the courage to address the problem.”
Again, due to his time with the Cosmos, he was accustomed to and demanded better. He organized a strike amongst the players. Team Manager, Commander Brown, got angry with him. “He started to speak to me like I was a soldier. I had to put him in his place and remind him that I was a civilian, not a soldier.”
That year just after Carnival, the team went on a training stint in Miami. He explains that Corneal needed to know if he would be with the team in June or training with Panathinaikos. Carter was confused with the rush as the trial was “so far away” and the first WC qualifier was not until August. However, Corneal insisted he needed to know at that time and if he were going to Greece, he would be cut from the team.
After conferring with his Agent, who explained that he would have no means of income for the next four months if he left the team, he informed Corneal that he would stay. Once back in TT the Coach demanded to see it in writing. Carter went back to the US and with the assistance of Aviation Services Ltd. (ASL) Owner, Arthur Suite, he bought out his contract from the Agent. “I showed the Release to Alvin and he told me to show it to Jack Warner.”
Three weeks later in the TT Press there was a headline, ‘Alvin Corneal not to pay pros.’ Leroy Spann and Trevor Fredericks were the two other pros on the team. We were training on UWI Grounds and I showed them the headline. They looked at me and walked away. I said ‘Spanner, Trevor, you not talking to me.’
Carter adds, “Ian Bain and Derrick Lewis joined the team in July. … Years later, Spanner admitted to me that he had been paid.”
He believes “It was payback for the way” he had spoken to Brown. Why should the Coach be so eager to pressure him months in advance and not explain that he would not be paid for his services. “I believe that Alvin was pressured to do this by Management. I told Alvin ‘you did not have to do it that way. You could have waited until I came back’” (from Greece). Sadly, he had been told by his agent the trial with Panathinaikos would have been a formality due to the fact that he had played with the Cosmos.
Corneal’s response was succinct, “The comment of me refusing to pay professional players has never occurred with me.”
Alvin brilliant but biased?
Carter is quick to point out that Corneal has a brilliant mind for football. “I don’t think the people of TT really recognize how great a Coach he really is.” He laments that Corneal allows favoritism or bias to cloud his judgement, “ … although he may not admit it.” Carter emphasizes having met top European Coaches in the NASL and trained in England and Norway that Corneal was every bit as good if not better than them. “People in TT can’t separate Alvin’s bias from his ability as a Coach,” and therefore cannot see his true genius.”
What manner of bias does Corneal show?
He uses the 1982 World Cup training team as a point of reference. Corneal selected eight schoolboys (in 1980), two being his sons, Anton (Fatima College) and Vernon (St. Mary’s College). “That did not sit well with the public, mainly because Ron La Forest, Sammy Llewellyn and Steve David were seen as far better players compared to Keith Eddy and Anton.” He adds there was also public scepticism of Arnold’s selection, “ … when there were far better Goalkeepers in the country. If Alvin was seriously contemplating qualifying for the 1982 WC, he had to be dreaming.” He emphasizes that Trevor Fredericks and Bert Neptune were far superior options. The eight schoolboys were then offered scholarships abroad. “The public was not stupid. They were informed and therefore, viewed Alvin as someone who was looking out for friends and family who were connected.”
He continues that two of the six Maple players selected were not of national level. Yet Corneal’s strategy was on point. “He may have had the belief that he could coach any player to a high level.” However, Carter says that he never saw those footballers adequately elevate their game.
“ Any Coach will select players he likes but the right one will select players who can execute his strategies.”
Carter confesses, “Despite all negative things that happened, I tell people that were it not for Alvin and the 1974 Youth Team and his input at times in my career, I would not have been so consistent.” He admits that Corneal’s contribution during the ’74 campaign was invaluable. He taught us how to prepare and train. How to read and understand a game. Without his input in 1974, I don’t know if I would have got to where I am.” Additionally, it was normal for the Spider-Man to go to Corneal’s house a few times a month. Carter preferred Corneal’s breakdown of his game as others were not at his level. “Because Alvin’s methodology is what propelled me to the top. Without his teaching it would have been very difficult to reach there.”
He concludes that despite any bias the public may perceive re him, “TT can gain immensely from Alvin Corneal as a lecturer in Soccer because he is that good.”
He does find time to mention former player and Coach Edgar Vidale. He confesses that neither he nor Gally Cummings liked Vidale’s Coaching “ … but he knew how to handle pro players. Any Coach has got to understand how to handle pros. For example, when I joined (National Training in 1976), he had a policy, no young player could make the team just like that. You had to pay your dues. I couldn’t understand that. It was difficult for me to adjust to his type of Coaching. I put in a lot of hard work, Devenish Paul and Norris Sorzano could not train with me. But I couldn’t just walk on so. Gally (Cummings) and Alvin did not do this.
Trials and tribulations with ASL
With the foreign option gone, he continued to ply his trade for ASL which at the time was bringing down some of the top teams from around the world to TT. But friction continued to follow him. Brazilian Coach, William Santarosa “was a Physiotherapist not a Coach per se.” Carter add that Suite had told him that a Brazilian Coach would have cost one hundred thousand US dollars a month, while Santarosa came at ten thousand. “He did a lot of scrimmages in training but I never got any feedback on my goalkeeping. My form dropped.” Carter reiterates that due to his time with the Cosmos he expected better. There was a feedback session with Dennis Ramdeen, the Financial Secretary at ASL. After the meeting, he asked the players if they had anything to say. Carter raised his hand and aired his gripe. The immediate response from Ramdeen was “’That is enough from you.’”
Realizing Santana was angry with him, Carter went to his home and apologized to him. “But you have to understand Santa, I want to become the best Goalkeeper in the world. ‘OK, Earl Carter, I will help you.’”
However, the proactive Carter decided to help himself. “Early in the morning, I would go to Couva and train with Leroy Spann, Stuart Charles and the Haynes brothers. So at the actual practice, I didn’t need him. Most of the players in ASL came to believe that Santa was not the right fit for us. Therefore , that left us with the responsibility of saving ASL and the future of the Professional Soccer League every time. Santa got the credit though which was artificially achieved.”
However, problems with the Brazilian Coach would arise again. “I have never been demoted as a Goalkeeper because of my ability. It was always because of a problem because I stood up for my rights.” ASL was continuing to bring down a number of foreign teams. Carter explains that he and Leric “Lobo” Joseph were the two vegetarians on the side. They were scheduled to play the USA in early ’82. For the two previous games, arrangements had been made for him and Lobo. However, on the day of the US game, when the lunch was brought for the team, there were no vegetarian dishes. Carter approached the Santana and voiced his complaint.
“Santa, there is no food for me.”
“’Carter, the food is there.’”
But there is no food for ME.
Carter, the food is over there.
The conversation went back and forth until an enraged Carter let loose on Santana and went home to eat.
When he returned to the Queen’s Park Oval in the midafternoon, it was Len La Forest who told him that he had been dropped. John Granville, his understudy on the 1974 Youth Team had replaced him.
“As a result, I was dropped form the National Team by Alvin Corneal. He told me if I was not a starter with my club, I had to be dropped. I said to him but it was not because of football it was because of the food I wanted to eat. You are going to chastise me for that?”
However, Carter’s form was so irrepressible that at one point Santana was confused as to what to do with two such talented ‘Keepers. It was Suite’s suggestion to “’play one in, one out.’ You could hear the crowd at the PSA Grounds saying “’Like Santana doh know what he doing or what?’”
Bouncing back from injury and “I try to beat the Coach.”
A car accident in 1982 left him with 92 stitches in his head. After a recovery period, he went back to his roots playing for Tacarigua United. During the next few years he bounced from ASL, San Juan Jabloteh and was even on trial with a Norwegian Second Division team, Beyrum in 1986. “The Coach said I was one of the top ten Goalkeepers in the world.” Unfortunately, he was not granted a Work Permit.
It should be noted that after the accident he did return to ASL for one day “but I tried to beat the Coach.”
Having been away for a few months due to his injuries he returned to ASL about 50 pounds overweight and Dutchman, Jan Schzwartikus’ (sp) first day. As the Coach was late, Assistant Coach, Robbie Greenidge advised him to run and stretch. When Schzwartikus arrived, Carter walked up and introduced himself. He was told by the Coach to start running. He tried to explain that because of the accident and weight, he was not at peak condition and that he had been running before his arrival. “’No. Do it now,’” was the response.
Carter did as we was told. He asked Greenidge to tell the Coach that he had already run. “But he would not budge.” Once done, “He then told me to try to win the ball from Stuart Charles, Leroy Spann and Ron La Forest.” Again, Carter explained his condition and that he had already been running, he was quite tired. “’No, you don’t tell me, I tell you!” was the curt response.
Carter did as he was told. After 10-15 minutes, “Could you believe the man told me to do 100 shuttles and 100 hurdles,” over about 50 metres. “I said Coach, please, listen,” again he tried to explain his condition and why he was exhausted. “’No. Go try.’’ It just was not easy. After I was finished, he again asked me to do the same thing (win the ball) with Charles, Spann and La Forest, the three best ball players on the team.” An exhausted Carter, again pleaded with Schzwartikus to understand that he was not fully fit due to the accident and that he was already exhausted. He was scolded, followed by the words, “’Come on boy!”
When I heard that, I went mad. You know with the history of slavery and so on. And when a white man from the US or Europe calls you boy, you know what they thinking. An enraged Carter ran after him “to beat him.” Now it was Schzwartikus doing the running as he was chased. “But I was too tired. I couldn’t catch him.”
Some of the players did jump in to help the Coach and criticized Carter. “Years later, I saw Vernon Charles.” He asked Charles why did the players attack him when the Coach was treating him in such a manner. “’Sorry, I didn’t realize’” was the response.
Estudiantes and misplaced documents
His time with the Cosmos still carried weight and a Trinidadian, Dudley B. Cave living in Argentina, mentioned to the Owner of Estudiantes that he knew Carter. He was immediately offered a contract. Sadly, he found out a few months later from Cave’s sister who said when the documents arrived that she had “’misplaced’” them in her house. By this time Cave had moved to Paraguay. When Carter contacted him by phone, the response was, “’Earl, Earl, Earl, the Coach wanted to sign you immediately. I wanted the ground to swallow me up.”
The Strike Squad, the smile and the sun
Called up to Everard “Gally” Cummings Strike Squad in January of 1989, he describes the experience as “Very good and very bad.”
The contribution I made was overlooked especially by the back four. They were never comfortable with me.” Carter explains that Gally’s drills did not help the Defence understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. “If there was a cross ball in the 18 yard box, I would believe it was for the Defence and they would believe it was for me. You need drills for harmony and for a player to understand who the ball is for. I was dropped for Michael (Brow) Maurice and you could see the comfort level (of the Back Four) with him.”
Carter believes this change took place only because the Strike Squad players “were playing for recreation, their lives didn’t depend on it.”
He refers to his Cosmos days. One day during practice there was a lot of water around the goalpost. The ‘Keeper, Yasin, did not want to dive in the mud. So, he stepped forward and the players tried to chip him. When he stepped back, they would drive it at him. “When I came in, I dived all over the place. If you see me, I was black from mud. I was the first person on the bus, Beckenbauer was the second. He said to me, ‘I was very impressed with your performance today and your attitude. You will make it very far not like that fu^&^% asshole’ (referring to the other ‘Keeper). It was about attitude, everybody knew I was the number one Goalkeeper. You had to perform for your livelihood. If your life depends on it, you do it one hundred percent. This is why we did not go to Italy.”
Needing just one point vs the USA to go to the Italy 1990 World Cup. TT somehow fell short at the National Stadium, POS in November, 1989. A nation ramped and ready for victory had to settle for a 1-0 loss. Amidst the tears, there was one man smiling. “I laughed. I was laughing because I knew the Technical Staff couldn’t hurt me again.”
About to move on to another topic, the Spider-Man interjects, “You don’t want to know how the goal score?”
“Sure, tell me.”
“A lot of people say that game was sold out on the field. But it was not … That was an area of weakness (for Michael Maurice) since 1976.” Carter goes on explain in detail Maurice’s weakness regarding long range shots, pointing out that Paul Caligiuri’s goal in November, 1989 was the fourteenth such occasion.
“During a North-South match in 1976, I sent a long throw to Neal Caesar who collected just over the half line, controlled on the turn and scored it over Michael Maurice’s head. North won 2-1.”
Tacarigua vs Police in 1984, Brian Haynes scored twice from 40 yards out.”
TT vs India, 1984, Babuman (sp) scored from 40 yards. India won 3-1.”
Police vs Army at the Arima Velodrome, July 22, 1987, Hayden Thomas scored from goal to goal.”
During a ten day camp in Puerto Rico, 1989, Timothy Haynes and I were on the bench. Gally and the Assistant Coach, Neville Chance were in front of us. Floyd “Ninja” Lawrence scored 40 yards out in training. Gally said ‘What the fu^& wrong with Brow? Chance said to him, ‘That is not his fault.’” A bemused Gally turned to Chance and said, “’Well if is not his fault, who the fu^& fault it is?’”
In the same camp in PR, in training, there was a quick 1-2 pass, a long range shot scored on him and he was not aware because he was talking to Marvin Faustin. Brian Williams cuss him.”
While training in the US in 1989, Brian Williams scored on him from 40 yards.”
Training in Fyzabad, five goals scored on him in the same way. I explained the problem to Dexter Francis and he say ‘You mad boy.’”
Michael Maurice says he was blinded by the sun.” However, Carter begs to differ. He explains that the game started at 3:00, the goal scored after 3:30 pm. The sun was lower and the stands would have been in the way. He adds that Caligiuri hit the ball on the volley. It was travelling from Maurice’s right to his left. “If you following the ball. How the sun in your eye boss?” Carter emphasizes that if you stand in that position at that time on any day in TT, the sun cannot be in your eye.
“I was the number two Goalkeeper and my cousin, Errol Lovell, was the number three. Then we exchanged positions.” Despite being family, Carter admits that he did not know what a good cricketer Lovell was. “Prince Bartholomew and Larry Gomes came to his house to persuade him to focus on cricket.”
Surprisingly in the midst of the WC qualifiers and in the final stages, Lovell did want to quit the Strike Squad. “When you see a man in front of you and he is better. You are ok with that. But Michael wasn’t giving it one hundred percent. By September (1989), he (Lovell) had given up. He wanted to leave the team.”
Carter encouraged his former protégé not to do so. “’It eh making sense,’” was the reply. However, he counselled him, “Train for your chance. If you get your chance and you are not ready, they will say you weren’t good enough. I would train with him early in the morning and it paid off.”
A Russian cub visited TT that year. Maurice played in the first game. “I watched the game with Richard Gabriel (former TT cricketer) and Keith Smith, the Express Editor. People were talking that Michael did not look that good.” Lovell was played in the second encounter with the Russians and handled himself well. A grateful Lovell said to Carter, “’Cuz, thanks for putting me out (to train). I could not have performed like that if you hadn’t.’”
Big mouth, big problems
Carter firmly believes that his demotion as the number one Goalkeeper had to do with Gally’s feeling towards him
rather than football matters. It was a bittersweet relationship.
He explains that years before in 1976, Gally, then unattached would go with Carter and a few other national players to a bar not far from Scarlet Ibis. “We would sit … listening to Bob Marley and drinking Malta.” Gally would pass on his experiences in the MLS and encourage them to analyze their games and to think and speak for themselves. “I became close with Gally. I used to visit him at his house in Belmont.He had a harmonious relationship with Gally as a respected mentor. “But Camps set me up.”
When Oliver Camps was brought on as Manager, he asked to speak to Carter about the team. The response was, “I
have nothing for you.” However, Camps was insistent that as Carter was the most experienced pro on the team, he wanted his feedback.
Visiting him at his home in Tacarigua, He wanted to know why was it TT had played so badly in winning the Caribbean Cup in Barbados. Carter refused to speak ill of the team, fearful that Camps would take it back to the Coach and the administrators. Camps’ response was, “’If Gally is a problem, I will get rid of him.’” Camps added he would not manage the team unless Carter was in goal. “I didn’t bad talk Gally. I didn’t like the style he was implementing.”
A few days later, whilst waiting for a taxi in Five Rivers, Carter saw a friend by the name of Beggs. He called him to the other side of the road and said, “’Earl Carter, You does talk too fu^&** much.’” Beggs was a well known footballer in the area. Jack Warner on his way to a TTFA meeting had invited him to come with him. Unaware that he knew Carter, they spoke freely in front of him and Camps told Gally and Warner what Carter had to say. Their relationship, thereafter, took a sour tone.
A few weeks later, Carter visited a friend who live not too far from the Fyzabad training camp. She said to him, “’Earl, what you do to Camps?’” Her job was to take the Minutes at the TTFA meetings. Whilst most footballers warmed up with stretches, Carter had an advanced Yoga technique. She explained that Camps and Gally were looking and criticizing his stretching. “’They looking for any reason to get rid of you.’”
Demoted for the home tie vs Guatemala, he was then not even on the bench for the away game. “Every time a goal score on Michael Maurice it wasn’t his fault. If it score on Earl Carter is his fault. They say the goal on November 19 was Kerry Jamerson’s fault. The goal score from 40 yards out. How that is Kerry Jamerson’s fault? I saved a shot in the six yard box in Costa Rica. I saved a point blank shot vs the US (in the US). Gally found little things to pick on in the CR game. Always a Gold Star for Michael Maurice but never a Gold Star for Earl Carter. All these years later and it still hurts.” The emotion in his voice is palpable.
He later found out that even if TT had qualified for the WC, plans had been made to replace him with a GK playing in the US University system. “The night after the match, (the late) Roderick Warner(Coach), passed by my mother’s house and told her ‘Tell Earl doh cry, he was not on the flight to Italy.’ The following year, I saw him at the National Stadium and he confirmed this to me.”
Regarding his attitude of speaking when he saw a wrong: “My parents and Gally taught me that. Therefore, it’s ironic that Gally would get angry with me. He was the one who taught us to speak up for ourselves. If he had a problem, he could’ve spoken to me.” Presently, Carter is writing his autobiography. “Gally says if I write a book, he will sue me. Go ahead, sue me! I want you to sue me!”
However, he adds, “I do not have a war with Gally.”
The early days
Born in Cane Farm. He lived along the East-West corridor until his family moved to Tobago due to his father’s job.
He describes the Tobago experience as difficult. “The Tobago people have a certain resentment towards (Trinis). My father had a good job but of the children in the school few had a good life, everything possible. Half of the children had no shoes yet many of them were the brightest.” He continues, “The teachers had a resentment towards me. Two of them told me, ‘We will make it so that you suffer.’” As a result, his grades began to suffer, he never complained to his parents despite his mother’s queries and concern. “The teachers would send me to do an Agricultural assignment after lunch, working in the garden. Only me. I was missing class.” Eventually, a frustrated Carter complained to his parents. When his mother confronted one of the teachers who had threatened him, she denied it. Matters came to a hilt when one day, as the boys were running in the school yard, the Principal pounced on him. “All the boys were running around but he decided to flog me with a belt. I had cuts on my back. If you see the quantity of blood!.” A distraught Carter ran to his father’s workplace which was not far away. “My father managed an asphalt plant. The workers realized something was wrong because they saw him sharpening a cutlass. ‘Earl what is wrong? What happened?’” Once Carter had informed them, they surrounded his father and said, “’You cannot leave here.’”
Not soon after, they moved back to Trinidad. Surprisingly, the man considered by many to be TT’s greatest Goalkeeper never played much football as a youth and did not goalkeep at all.
He did however, have two inspirations in his family, older brother Lennox and cousin, Ulric “Buggy” Haynes. He explains that Lennox played for Paramount in the Eddie Hart League in the late ‘60s and ’70s with mainly players from the South. Haynes played for Sane Guns which was made up of players from POS and the East. “They played in a finals six times (in the Eddie Hart League), Paramount won the seventh game. The people there was like a PNM Convention. There were more than fifteen thousand.”
The older Carter rejected an offer from Malvern so that he could play and promote football in the community. “I became the soccer player I am because of him.”
Young Carter at St. Benedicts Highschool considered himself an aspiring quarter miler. An audacious Carter, despite not playing football, told a friend that one day he would become the best Goalkeeper in the world. But my interest was there because of my brother. “A fellow by the name of George Dingo, saw me playing for my school. ‘Go to the Sir Frank
Worrell team at UWI and say I sent you.’
Carter showed up and announced himself with the intention of playing midfield. The Goalkeeper had not yet arrived, “so I said let me go in goal and help out.” Proving himself to be adept, the players started to shout, “’We get one boy. We get one.’ I didn’t understand them”
Later, the Coach, Vernon Bain, arrived. “’Coach, we get one! We get one!’” Bain stood next to the goalpost and
observed. Later, as Carter rested on the post. Bain asked, “’Are you a half or quarter miler?’
Carter answered. Bain followed up, “’You know Lincoln Phillips?’”
‘No, who is he?’”
‘Well you have everything he has.’”
‘I am here to be a midfielder.’”
‘Boy! We looking for a goalkeeper!!’”
There was only one final hurdle to overcome, his father.
On his way out of the house to play his first game vs Maple, he was told by his father that it would be his last
game. They defeated a Maple side (3-2) with Alvin Corneal, Johnny Duncan and the Sadefall (sp) brothers. Bain,
known as VB, was informed that Carter could no longer train with the team. He offered to drive him home and
once there asked to speak to his father. Carter pointed to the porch, “’Mr. Griffith,’ said Bain, … ‘I came to talk to
you about your son. I came to tell you that he is a future national goalkeeper.’”
‘Well I have no money for that.’”
VB assured him that all he needed was his permission and he would take care of the rest.
“As you know in those days you did not disrespect your parents. If VB did not intervene, I would never have been a soccer player.”
He found himself playing for four teams in a week: Green Giants in the Five Rivers First Division; Eagles (Eddie Hart U-19 League), Sir Frank Worrell (Central & St. Georges First Div.) and St. Benedicts in the SSFL.
Pro Football and Arthur Suite’s dream
He has had the distinction of playing for TT’s firs three professional teams, Pro Pioneers, K&SI Phoenix and Aviation Services Ltd. (ASL).
He explains that Pioneers were bringing down some of the top teams in the world. Jack Warner was not a part of it and thus, not a part of the money being made. “He saw them as a threat. He sent out a letter to all the clubs that if they played Pioneers, they would be banned.” In terms of Pioneers being banned from local football, “no reason was given.”
Arthur Suite, the ASL owner, would suffer a similar fate. Carter explains that Suite failed because of his love for TT Football.”His dream was to see TT qualify for the WC. Suite wanted to have a pro environment to boost the level of Football in the country. Most of the quality players in TT were in Suite’s Professional Soccer League (PSL).” There was some tension between Suite and Warner. He was invited by Corneal to a meeting at the National Stadium, in 1982. In addition to Warner and Corneal, it was attended by Hasely Crawford Advisor in the Ministry of Sport; Cecil Walker, President Ellis Clarke and Minster of Sport, Marilyn Gordon. It was explained that the dispute was dragging TT’s name in the mud and that a resolution had to be made. It was agreed that if Suite disbanded the PSL, Warner would make him VP or President of the TTFA. Suite disbanded his league and got nothing from Warner.
Columbia University and Jabloteh
Having acquired some Coaching experience while as a player with clubs such as TECSA and Tacarigua Utd amongst other, he became the Assistant Coach at Columbia University for most of the ‘90s. During the early part of this century he enjoyed a fair degree of success with youth footballer, especially the TewksburyTewksbury Bengals. Taking their U-12 Boys’ team to the State title more than once and a US #1 ranking in 2003.
Not surprisingly, he has churned out his fair share of quality players; Goalkeepers: Sal Rosamilia (US NT) and Steve McNulty who turned down an EPL offer to finish his studies at Columbia. At home he developed the following ‘Keepers, Wayne Lawson; Errol Lovell; Anthony Millette, Rickey Braithwaite and Leo Fermin. All played for the National Youth Team with Lovell making it to the Sr. team. He also coached Ken Holder and Oscar Waldron (outfield).
Looking at back at the TT GKs he developed in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he believes that Lovell was the most talented. “I worked with him for only six months. He said ‘Cuz, you go leave meh so?’ I told him, ‘I have nothing left to teach you. You have all the fundamentals. You can build on that. ’”
He points out Ross Russel and Michael Maurice as being talented GKs. In Maurice’s case, he believes that he was given the #1 spot without actually “earning it. It was like, ‘I don’t have to train. We like you, here’s a pass.’ The player thinks he could do what he wants. He was given a gift he didn’t deserve.”
He returned to TT as the San Juan Jabloteh Coach in 2011. He describes the experience as “very bad.” He explains that Club Chairman, Jerry Hospedales, “told me to my face in front of the Board that he did not want a black Coach. He thought a white Coach would manage the club better.” He bemoans that the Board “ … made no effort to correct or fix problems. They however, managed to be in first place for three months, “ … which must have shocked Jerry. I started the season with 24 players and finished with 13. I added one player during the Transfer Window.” He continues, “Players were not being paid. They were courted by other clubs. We finished fourth but we could have won the League.”
Gally and others
He offers an opinion on some of the greats he has rubbed shoulders with in addition to Pele:
Everard “Gally” Cummings – “He has an idea of how to coach. Where he went wrong is that he was constantly analyzing the performance of his team.” It would seem that Gally did not always break down games for a post analysis. “The one and only time was after playing Millionarios, which we won 1-0. Spann and I sat down. We were at a loss for words. Why didn’t he do that all the time? The breakdown he gave us – if you see that!! Spanner and I, we couldn’t talk. That man could break down a game like this! And he never did it before!! If he had been more consistent in addressing the small things, he would have been a better Coach.”
Ron La Forest – “Outstanding player. Poor work ethic in training. If he had the discipline to train hard, I don’t know who could have stopped him. He would talk to players (whilst playing against them) and frustrate you. That was his way of intimidation.” He continues, “Imagine the opponent just tackled Ron for the ball and won it. He would be back uttering threats to the opposition. ‘Look out, ah coming again. You can’t stop this. How you could stop this?’ He was fearless.”
Both Carter and La Forest had their own showdowns. “Ron would utter trash talk to me when I played against him. Particularly when I played for Malvern in the Port of Spain First Division. He was a member of the Defence Force team, spectators came in the thousands not to see Malvern vs Defence Force, rather they came to see Ron La Forest against Earl Carter. Many spectators would shout out ‘Get Carter before he gets you.’ While Ron would utter to me ‘Carter you could stop this!’ then he would fire in a powerful shot to my goal , I would then utter back to him after I saved it, particularly with the Pat Down. ‘\Who throw that ball?’ That was the excitement we brought to the game and the spectators came to see it at the PSA, Long Circular.”
Ken Barclay – “A very good Goalkeeper. He worked very hard and had good ethics.”
Richard Chinapoo – “Tremendous player to shoot the ball. His technique was simple. His strength was running and driving the ball towards goal but he was not creative.”
Dwight Yorke - “Outstanding! He showed this from a young age and he measured up.”
Russel Latapy – “His strength was with the ball. He was not strong off the ball because he did not command more respect in his game. If you were brutal and tough, he would shy away and not want to mix it up. Dwight Yorke was not afraid to mix it up.”
John Granville – “He became much better than he was than in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was not in my class, I was way ahead of him.” Carter explains that Granville made the National Youth Team in ’74 due to the necessity of having a Tobagonian on the side. “However, in Youth Training and with the Army, he developed. He learnt a lot watching me and got better.” Granville was Carter’s understudy on the NYT and also for ASL. When Carted got axed at the last minute for the ASL-USA game, it was Granville who stepped in. “He played very well against Arsenal,” (later that year).
Ronald Simmons – “A very good Defender.”
Dexter Skeene – “He was not amongst the top players. I don’t think he was given a fair chance to be on the NT. But he was not consistent enough to be at that level.”
He makes sure to mention his cousin, Buggy Haynes. “He was one of the most outstanding Forwards we ever had. He could play with Defenders on his back and could contribute up front and defensively. He had a great work ethic. He once told me that when he wasn’t scoring goals that’s when he was playing at his best because he was trying to make up for it.”
He is also compelled to mention Ken Holder TECSA, Tunapuna). “I called him the unpaid professional. I couldn’t understand how all of the time he could train and not look for a job. He later explained to me that his family compensated him so that he could play.”
The Pat Down
No interview with Spider-Man Carter would be complete without mentioning the Pat Down.
When the ball comes at you, it is patted down with both hands behind the ball and picked up on the bounce. Carter exclaims he is the first to have introduced the Pat Down. He hopes to access video footage of himself at the Concacaf Youth tournament in 1974. One has to wonder if TTT has any club or international footage in their own archives.
“Alvin Corneal says that Gerald Figeroux was the first to use the Pat Down. That is not true. I saw Figeroux play for TT vs Chelsea (1-2) and I never saw the technique. He had the ability to fly.”
Carter adds, “My cousin Buggy Haynes, said he saw Figeroux play in the ‘60s and he never saw him do it.”
Some Goalkeepers bounce the ball and run with it. That is NOT the Pat Down. He emphasizes that back in the ‘70s GKs would parry or punch, e.g., Lincoln Phillips. He discovered the technique by chance, training against a white wall at Mount St. Benedict’s. The ball came off the wall quickly, taking him by surprise and he instinctively pat it down.
In his youth, he was a charismatic personality, exclaiming before a match, “I am the greatest. I am the best! He would catch a ball and then do a backflip. He is considered by many to be TT’s greatest every Goalkeeper. When stopping a ball with the Pat Down, no matter how hard the shot, he would disdainfully ask, “Who threw that ball. Who threw that ball?” His distribution is considered second to none. His throw was fast, hard and straight like a javelin. He boasts, “I could give it to you anywhere you want it. Where you want it – on your head, your chest, your feet?”
He believes that regarding today's 'keepers there is a certain degree of inconsistency. "They have to be coached the basics if you cannot catch the ball you are not a Goalkeeper. Today's 'keepers are punching the ball that's coming straight at them. The format has been changed, basic technique has been destroyed. Even if you look at Keylor Navas and Robin Olsen they are inconsistent. But who challenges them? Ninety nine percent of the people tell them that is the way to go. They do not catch the ball, they are not being taught. People say it is because the ball is moving but that is not true."
Naturally, many former national players hold him in high regard. Ronnie Simmons says, “We played for the same club - Tacarigua Upstarts in the Eddie Hart League. He was selected for the Under 19 National Youth Team along with Sam Phillip another Upstarts player. That inspired me to want to represent Trinidad. Most of all, I saw the hard work and dedication Spidey put into his practice sessions with the team and by himself, unbelievable hard work and attention to detail. Preparation for games mentally and physically not matched by any player in my experience. … He was one of those if he had been given a chance abroad, he could have shown what he could do.”
Former NY Cosmos Striker and national teammate, Richard Chinapoo, shares his opinion, “Earl enjoyed the game more than most players and was totally committed to becoming the best keeper around. Amazing work rate and attitude. He was in "Beast Mode" back then, years before the phrase was created. A winner, team player and one of the boys. He ranks in the top three of Trinidad goalkeepers I have seen over the years.”
Graeme Rodriguez, “I have the utmost respect and admiration for Earl Spider-Man Carter. To me he was one of, if not the best goalkeeper Trinidad ever produced. I truly believe this.”
Presently, the Spider-Man is working on his autobiography, from Tacarigua to the NY Cosmos. From Pele to Beckenbauer and Strike Squad bacchanal et al, it augurs to be quite a read.
Earl Carter Biofile:
Favorite Meal: ocro and rice
Heroes: Pele, Muhammad Ali, Buggy Haynes.
Favorite Footballer: Pele
TT Youth Team, 1974,Back Row: l-r, Ulrich Butcher, John Granville, Earl Carter, Brian John, Michael John, Ian Lakhan, Richard Chinapoo, Joseph Phillip, Johnathan Wills.
Centre: l-r,Derrick Lewis, Curtis Murrel, Stephen Reyes, S. Boodoo, Trevor Rodd, Winston Hackett, Peter"Deeks" DeCouteau, Keith Weekes.
Front: l-r..Kendall Walkes, Robert Francis (Capt.), Alivin Corneal (Coach) Egbert Solomon (Chef-de-Mision) Arnold “Chicken” Leotuaud (Mngr), Gerard Homer (Vice Capt.) and Michael Grayson.
Caribbean All Stars vs China, 1977, Earl Carter to the rescue at the QPO.
Earl Spiderman Carter, gets ready to save a close range effort from Frank Klopas (USA). Attacking is Paul Elliot Allen, partly hidden is Brian Williams. USA vs TT WC qualifier, May, 1989.
“Every time a goal score on Michael Maurice it wasn’t his fault. If it score on Earl Carter is his fault. They say the goal on November 19 was Kerry Jamerson’s fault. The goal score from 40 yards out. How that is Kerry Jamerson’s fault? ...