New Caledonia coach Rajesh Latchoo ready to turn up the heat

File photo: Morvant Caledonia United technical director Jamaal Shabazz, left, and Rajesh Latchoo share a light moment.

Thursday September 29, 2016

Rajesh Latchoo, the new coach of former Caribbean Club champions Morvant Caledonia United, wants to turn up the heat, especially in offence, while sticking with the club’s style of possession play.

Latchoo, who will play a 4-3-3 system and not the 4-4-2 system previously employed by MCU, gets his first test on Friday Sep. 30 when the Digicel Pro League (DPL) 2016/17 season kicks-off with a South-vs-North double-header at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin.

Morvant Caledonia United and home side Point Fortin Civic who both finished at the bottom last season – only ahead of cellar-placed St. Ann’s Rangers – will tackle each other from 7:30pm after a 5pm kick-off between Club Sando and last season's DPL runners-up San Juan Jabloteh at the Point Fortin venue.

“My philosophy at Caledonia is to improve the possession to penetrate!" explained Latchoo who has replaced coach Jerry Moe this season. "…because we are accustomed with the possession and knocking [the ball around]. But now we want to add a little more flare to the football, a little more speed in the attack and [knowing] when to penetrate especially down the flanks and through the centre. We want more stretch, more attacking, more entertaining football.”

The 33-year-old Latchoo, a former Joe Public (Pro League and Super League) and Barackpore United (Super League) head coach, was a member of Moe's coaching staff at Morvant Caledonia United in the past three seasons as assistant coach as well as served as Director of Youth Football—a position now taken over by longstanding servant of the club, Moe.

Latchoo, back with the status as the youngest head coach in the Pro League, also had coaching stints at the national level—in both the male youth and women’s divisions—and is a Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) coach instructor.

“Our long term strategic plan is about building our staff to improve their competencies and this exercise is to complete that part of the process,” explained Morvant Caledonia United boss Jamaal Shabazz. “It was a perfect switch for both individuals. We need a little more management focus on the senior level – and for the youths we need more dynamism for the drills.”

Shabazz, MCU’s technical director and former Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana national team coach, continued, “In the last two years we (MCU) have made a more serious approach to youth development at the club. And by taking the person (Jerry Moe) responsible for drilling the style of play for so many years at the senior level and putting him in the youth programme shows where our head space is at the moment.

“Jerry is in his second season [at the Secondary Schools Football League] with San Juan North Secondary and Latchoo have also had experience with Joe Public and Barackpore United. We are confident that on both counts, youth and senior level, we see this move will bear dividends.”

Shabazz said he would like to see MCU—at least—finish second, a position the former Caribbean Club champions achieved in 2011/12. But says “staff and senior players found this request to be modest and want nothing but first spot.”

This season, Caledonia have welcomed the return of 2006 World Cup midfielder Densill Theobald, adding to a mixture of youth and experience with goalkeepers Marvin Phillip of the T&T national team, Stephon Seepersad and Hakeem Thomas; defenders Jair Edwards, Guyana’s Kevin Layne, Ordell Flemming of St. Kitts/Nevis, Otev Lawrence of St. Lucia, Seon Thomas, Taje Commissiong and Teriq Highland of Barbados.

Akim Armstrong, Anthony Charles, Keron Bethelmy, Lester Joseph of St. Lucia and Maestro Mensah of Ghana will compete for starting roles in midfield while Dominic Douglas, Jameel Neptune, Jordan Devonish, veteran Kareem Joseph, Kordell Samuel and Guyana duo Amos Ramsay and Sheldon Holder are forward options for Latchoo, who will be assisted by former player/coach Abdallah Phillips.

“I have learned a lot under Jerry Moe as his understudy for the last couple years,” added Latchoo. “I will use [what I’ve learned] to help the game defensively but I want to see a little more flair in the build-up. We have changed the system to 4-3-3… before it was 4-4-2. The philosophy remains the same but the starting positions of the players now will be different.”

Last season Caledonia lifted the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield following a remarkable rise from the qualifiers to celebrate as champions of the knockout title.

Digicel Pro League 2016/17
Round One Match Day One
Friday September 30
Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin
Club Sando vs San Juan Jabloteh—5pm
Point Fortin Civic vs Morvant Caledonia United—7:30pm

Sunday October 02
Defence Force Headquarters Ground, Chaguaramas
Defence Force vs St. Ann’s Rangers—3:15pm

Tuesday October 04
Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva
Ma Pau Stars (formerly North East Stars) vs Police FC—6pm
Central FC vs W Connection—8pm