Wednesday 02 October 2019, 16:19

Joseph's Grenada harbouring golden aspirations

  • Grenada in the thick of a fight for Concacaf Gold Cup spot

  • Bright Nations League start saw them fly up the FIFA Ranking

  • Former-star-turned-coach Shalrie Joseph out to deliver on their potential

While he is among the most successful players to come out of Grenada, Shalrie Joseph’s return to the island as coach didn’t afford him much of a honeymoon period.

“The first couple of games hit me like a punch to the face in terms of what it takes to win and prepare at this level,” the five-time MLS All-Star admitted, after conceding 15 goals to Jamaica and Curacao in a baptism of fire just over a year ago.

However, the picture is looking wholeheartedly brighter as the fledgling coach has overseen the perfect start to their Concacaf Nations League campaign. Wins over St Kitts and Nevis, and away in Belize see them riding high at the top of their League B group.

An impressive stride of 13 places up the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to 160th also saw them climb further than anyone else across August and September, having been languishing at their joint-lowest position of 176th in 2017.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start, winning those two games – especially the one in Belize. At home we were expected to win but to get six points is a great start for us as a team and a country.”

Those victories took the Spice Boys to four consecutive wins, a feat they’ve never managed before – an impressive achievement for Joseph’s first senior international role. Having also earned both 2-1 triumphs in the closing stages, there’s a feel-good factor within the Caribbean island’s soccer ranks.

“Getting those late winners, so dramatically in the latter part of the game, shows a lot of resilience from the players,” Joseph reflected, a coach aided by having some of his charges bang in form.

Jamal Charles struck the two winners, while both he and defensive midfielder AJ Paterson have four apiece across those four wins. The pair, aged 23, are reflective of the potential Joseph sees in his squad.

“At that age I don’t think they even know what they’re capable of. We see a lot of great young talent and if we can get all these guys representing our country and together training on the same field, the sky’s the limit.”

Shalrie Joseph, Grenada coach

Grenada coach Shalrie Joseph

The Nations League provides real promise of his tenure taking off impressively quickly. The upcoming double-header with French Guiana sees them with the potential of moving within a point of – or even sealing – a sensational Gold Cup spot, having not featured since 2011.

And the positivity around the team has also seen players stepping forward to get a place in Joseph’s squad. “A lot of players have reached out to me or the FA in terms of representing Grenada and trying to get a cap for Grenada which is great.

“When I arrived, I found that not too many players are excited about being called into the team. I want to make sure that when the young players get called into camp it’s something that whets their appetite. They’re little goals, but they’re huge in my eyes.”

The next step for Joseph is seeing Grenada play more games against the biggest sides in the region and reach “a respectable FIFA Ranking” place – their best ever of 88 came just over ten years ago. But his main aim while back in charge of the side he used to run out for, is to simply help them grow. “I just want to leave Grenadian football in a better position than I found it.”

While it’s early days, the signs are looking positive.