Tom Curtis targets new fairytale ending to Caribbean crusade

Ex-Chesterfield player managing Antigua and Barbuda making waves in cricketing heartland

As the final whistle blew at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Friday night, an Englishman emerged from the dugout to exchange handshakes with one of world football's most familiar figures.

It's unlikely that Jürgen Klinsmann was aware of Tom Curtis during his time with Spurs but he certainly knows who he is now. Antigua and Barbuda needed a win against Klinsmann's United States side to maintain their interest in qualification for the 2014 World Cup but a last-minute strike from former Fulham striker Eddie Johnson in a 2-1 win ended their hopes of mixing it with the big boys in Brazil.

It was always likely to prove a bridge too far for the Caribbean minnows, but given the limitations Curtis is working with, he has already surpassed all reasonable expectations.

"It was always a long shot, but it's a huge, huge thing to have had the USA here," said Curtis. "The disparities between the two organisations in terms of budgets, infrastructure and player pools are so vast. There are 88,000 people on the island and they haven't got a football pitch. Yes, qualification is important but the fact that we're actually playing these guys is a success story anyway."

Curtis arrived in Antigua in March 2011 after leaving his job as the head coach of Loughborough University. Before taking the plunge in the Caribbean, he was best known as a member of the Chesterfield side that reached the semi-finals of FA Cup in 1997.

That fairytale run was ended by Bryan Robson's Middlesborough in a replay, but the former midfielder – who racked up over 400 league appearances for the likes of the Spirerites, Portsmouth and Mansfield – is a man who has always enjoyed the underdog tag.

"I thought it would be a challenge, something different," he said. "And I haven't been wrong. When I came here we were 125 in the world and we got ourselves up to 83 at one point. The island has never been to the semi-final stage of Concacaf World Cup qualifying so we've already come a long way. We don't have training facilities, we train on cricket grounds and pieces of grass that we can find all over the island."

Antigua and Barbuda's World Cup run has given the sports-mad population hope that, one day, an island usually renowned for its cricketers can see its footballers rub shoulders with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi at a global tournament. For the moment though, Curtis is far more likely to bump into them on one of the island's pristine beaches. Or maybe not.

"All the Premier League stars stay in the best hotels in the most expensive areas of Antigua," he said. "There's no chance of our paths crossing."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)