Defence Force part ways with Ross Russell – the armed-force most successful coach of recent years

Marvin Gordon to serve as interim head coach

Defence Force two-time Pro League winning coach Ross Russell.
Issued on Thursday 8 January 2015

Staff Sergeant Ross Russell’s tenure with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF), which falls under the Ministry of National Security, has come to an end after 26 years, which also means that, at present, the 47-year-old will not be able to serve the army-coast guard combination of Defence Force Football Club as head coach or in any official position.

Unless, Russell – the most successful coach of the Defense Force football set-up in recent years – is subsequently promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer. Only then would he be able to serve the TTDF and its top-flight football team for three more years—something Russell has been very optimistic about over the past year.

At present, Russell’s able apprentice and close friend, 36-year-old Lance Corporal Marvin Gordon, will serve as interim head coach and will lead the soldiers out against Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh from 7 pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium on Saturday in Round One Match Day Eight of the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League.

While another former player, Anton Joseph, will continue to serve as assistant coach of the top-flight Defence Force football team.

Last month Russell served out his final days as a member of the TTDF prior to December 18 when the Staff Sergeant reached his 47th birthday – the retirement age based on his last rank – two days after his last match in charge which ended in a 1-1 draw with Point Fortin Civic.

Russell’s successes as head coach of Defence Force’s top-flight team includes winning the soldiers’ two (Digicel) Pro League championships (2010-2011 & 2012-2013), the First Citizens Cup (2009) and the Digicel Pro Bowl (2012) during his spell, which began in 2009.

Last season, Defence Force, interrupted by issues relating national security, went trophy-less for Defence Force, but more so a traumatic season after 30-year-old club winger and Trinidad and Tobago player Kevon Carter died of a heart attack on 28 February 2014, and two months earlier defender Rawle Fletcher was murdered in his hometown, Couva.

However Russell’s accomplishment’s in the new era of professional football in Trinidad and Tobago isn’t unnoticed.

“He (Russell) was a dedicated soldier… both to country and organisation,” said Lieutenant Basil Thompson, who serves as the team manager. “He usually puts country first (opting to various national football team coaching duties) during times of military courses where he could have been promoted in the service. He served the country in football and even in the service he has always been diligent, never once having a problem. And with the current squad of footballers we have, the motivation he inspires is unparallel.”

Despite being away from the job, it is also understood that Russell, who presently serves the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Under-17 team as assistant coach/goalkeeper coach, continues to unofficially share advice with the current coaching staff at Defence Force FC.

“I think I’ve served the service well and never brought it under any disrepute,” said Russell, who has also served Trinidad and Tobago Men’s and Women’s teams from youth to senior levels in various coaching positions. “I thought I deserved the promotion to serve a few more years.”

Today, the former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper said he holds no regrets over his decision 26 years ago to join the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.

Russell, back then a 19-year-old captain of the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 team, enrolled in the army in 1988 and went on to serve the Defence Force admirably as a soldier and footballer.

“I think the Defence Force was good to me,” Russell added. “I enjoyed every moment in the Defence Force… all 26 years of it and I won’t change anything even if I had the chance. I think I was a very good soldier and served the Defence Force and country to the best of my ability.”

Russell, during his early time as a soldier, was at the time the only national footballer serving the infantry battalion of the TTDF but went on to have an exciting and well-accomplished playing career. He won every title on offer domestically, which included multiple national league titles and the FA Trophy, as well as the Caribbean Club title.

But for Russell his most precious memory is “leading Defence Force to 10 straight league wins then winning the (2010-2011 Digicel Pro) league title as coach”, while his fondest military memories includes being a member of Echo Company (military unit) and being a footballer while serving in the front line, as well as “being the fittest recruit in my time.”

Russell’s son, Ross Russell Jr., a left-footed defender/winger, has already followed some of his father’s footsteps, representing T&T at youth level, and joining the military where he also serves the Defence Force top-flight team.

Russell Sr. said he plans to continue coaching for as long as he can, and there are already offers from local clubs, but plans to weigh his options carefully.