DeGraff ready for World Cup swansong
Sammy DeGraff has bittersweet memories of Bermuda's World Cup qualifying roller coaster ride of 2008.
The elegant midfielder was the notable absentee when his team-mates famously defeated Trinidad in Port of Spain, having been axed from Bermuda's squad by former coach Kenny Thompson.
That he had delivered a man of the match display in the previous round, scoring twice against Cayman Islands, made the surprise snub all the more painful to take for the North Village captain.
But never one to wash his dirty linen in public, DeGraff graciously accepted Thompson's decision to go with the less experienced Kris Frick instead and bears no ill will towards the BAA Wanderers football director.
“(Being dropped) happens to the best of the players; Ronaldinho was left out by Brazil at the last World Cup,” said DeGraff, who played in Bermuda's most recent international against Cayman Islands in the Digicel Cup three years ago. “Coaches have to make tough decisions and I have no ill feelings toward Kenny or anybody else.”
Next month the Gombey Warriors return to Trinidad for the first time since that memorable 2-1 triumph, with DeGraff desperate to be apart of another history-making moment in what will be his final qualifying campaign.
And despite entering the twilight of his international career, the 30-year-old still feels he has plenty to contribute and believes the younger players can benefit from his experience.
“I still feel I have something to give and I'm always happy to contribute for my country. All I can do is give my best in training and leave the rest up to the coaches,” said DeGraff, who has been named in Bermuda's provisional squad for the qualifiers.
“We have a talented a team, especially in the midfield department, so it's going to be tough for the coaches.
“I think you will see a variety of players used over the course of the campaign; I don't think it will be a case of one set team.”
In terms of the team's professionalism, DeGraff reckons the Class of 2011 are superior to Thompson's '08 edition, although he's disappointed the current crop's World Cup preparations didn't start sooner
“We've always had a talent level in Bermuda, but in the past the mindset of the players has always let us down,” he said. “But I'm encouraged by the number of current and former professionals we now have in the team and that should stand us in good stead.
“I do think our preparations have started way too late, but my biggest cause for concern is that we've lost a lot of quality defenders since the previous qualifiers. I didn't see any of Bermuda Hogges games this summer, but I gather that was their main weakness.”