World Cup star and Latics' Development coach discusses the difficult task of juggling international and domestic football.Development coach Dennis Lawrence is a hero of his country after he scored the crucial goal in a 1-0 against Bahrain in November 2005 to hand World Cup qualification to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time in their history.
The former Wrexham and Swansea City defender had to create a balance of international and domestic commitment as he helped his nation to the tournament finals.
The qualification system in North and Central America demanded over 10 competitive international fixtures in just 12 months which were arranged around the domestic calendar of over 40 matches in all competitions.
Although it was a tough process for ‘Big Den’ it is something he remains immensely proud of.
“The one thing I would say is that your nationality will never change and playing for your country is one of the biggest honours in football.
“It was a massive change for me when I came over to Wrexham because it meant that I had to travel for seven hours to get back over to play international games.”
Tiredness and exhaustion are always fears when players make long journeys to represent their countries but Lawrence recalls that it was an opposite effect on him.
“When I got back to Wales my manager would always ask me if I was fit enough to play and I would always say yes because I was just that type of guy who wanted to play at every opportunity.
“I always found that on the Saturday I felt fresh to play, it was only the day after that the jet lag caught up with me.”
He empathised with players who are in that situation by saying: “It is understandable the strain that is put on players.
“Physically it is demanding on the body but players are taken well care of when they come back now because of the progression in sports science which they are able to use to be ready to play so frequently.
“We didn’t have the advanced structure that players are given now but one thing that was always crucial was to have that positive mental attitude of being ready in both the international and domestic environment.”
During the 2005/06 season Lawrence had to juggle the task of helping his country to the World Cup finals and battling for a play-off place in League Two with Wrexham.
The 38-year-old though, had one simple rule to keep dedicated to each cause.
“When I was playing I was always focussed on whichever duty I had to fulfill at the time. “So when I had a club game coming up that was my only focus and when I represented Trinidad and Tobago that then became my only focus at the time.
“As soon as the games with Trinidad had finished though, I got straight into preparing my mind and body for the league game that was coming up and Wrexham became my sole focus.
“I think it is the same focus and aim for players now because they are top professionals and are very good at being dedicated to club and country.”