Friends of mine will know of my tendency to send seemingly punty e-mails from time to time. As an example of this, last year I found out that the Methil power station chimney (an architectural beast which overlooked the town I grew up in) was being demolished on my birthday. Carefully choosing the most likely Scottish Power e-mail address from their website, I asked very nicely if, given my ties with the area and my 20 years of non-stop East Fife (my team and the local football club) support, I could press the button which would send the chimney into oblivion. Of course, no-one ever got back to me, and for some reason instead it was people who had worked in the power station for 20+ years who got to flick the switch and send that tubular lump of concrete flying.
I made a similar punt about two months ago when I looked to see if any of East Fife’s Trinidadian signings in the mid-1990s were easily contactable, having been inspired by a wonderful article on tellhimhespele.com. Gavin Lewis and Arnold Dwarika were nowhere to be found – Craig Demmin, a strapping centre-half who played 9 league matches for the Fifers during Steve Archibald’s all-too-brief reign, however, had a website with a contact form… it was worth a go. I asked him if he’d heard much of his fellow countrymen, and whether or not he’d mind being the subject of a future blog post. I expected a response similar to the one I’d had from Scottish Power.
However, a few days later, I was surprised and delighted to receive a response from the man himself, saying he’d be happy to answer any questions I might have, that he hadn’t seen or heard much of Lewis or Dwarika in recent years, and that he liked my blog (had to get that in). After attempting to cobble some questions together over a couple of weeks, I sent them on to Craig via e-mail, who very graciously responded.
To give some background on Mr Demmin, Craig started his career in Trinidadian league football, playing for Trinity Pros before moving to Scotland and Methil to play for East Fife. After his time in Scotland he moved to the United States, the highlight being his spell with Tampa Bay Mutiny in Major League Soccer. He also spent 7 years in total at Rochester Raging Rhinos in the A-League/USL (at the time, the US Second Division), making over 100 appearances for the club. He pulled on the Trinidad and Tobago shirt 25 times.
He now lives in Rochester, New York with his wife and two sons, and runs soccer camps for local children which see 250-300 participants every year.
My questions, and Craig’s answers, were as follows:
Firstly, Craig, why did you choose to come to Scotland to further your career?
My fellow countryman (Arnold Dwarika) was at East Fife at the time and from what I heard from him, I was excited about the opportunity and the experience that playing in Scotland would bring. That made it an easy decision for me.
And why East Fife?
Having Arnold (Dwarika) in Methil is what initially brought me to East Fife. Before that I knew nothing about the club. I was very excited to see when I got to the club that Steve Archibald was the player/manager. I grew up being a big fan of Tottenham Hotspur and Steve Archibald was one of my favourite players.
What did you think of Methil and Fife in general?
I really enjoyed it. I loved the small town atmosphere. We lived a couple of blocks away from Bayview Park. I remember going for early morning runs along the water and walks through the town centre that always seemed busy with people.
Did you feel like the move to East Fife was a step up compared to your time in Trinidad and Tobago?
Yes, it was a step in the right direction for me. It was a different game compared with college in the USA, and at that point of course Trinidad and Tobago didn’t have a professional league.
East Fife played Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly while you were in Methil; how strange was that for you?
It was a wonderful experience. Although it wasn’t the full national team, it was great to see fellow Trinidadians get some exposure abroad.
Did having an established fellow countryman in Arnold Dwarika in the side help? Did he help sell the club to you?
It did, and he did! He was a well-respected player in both Trinidad and the wider Caribbean.
What sticks in your mind most from your time at East Fife?
The little flat we lived in, the little corner shop nearby that we sometimes visited as many as 3 times a day, and of course the passionate fans.
What did you make of Steve Archibald as a manager?
Steve Archibald was a player I always looked up to. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to meet him! He was a real player’s coach and all the players seemed to have the same degree of respect for him.
There’s always something exciting about signing a foreign player for a fan of a Scottish lower league side. Did you pick up on that from the East Fife supporters?
I did. I think Arnold set the tone for me being at the club on that front in particular. He was really respected by both the fans and the players.
What path did your career take after you left East Fife? Do you feel your time at the club helped your future career?
My time at East Fife really did help me for what I accomplished later in my career – my experience at the club was invaluable. It wasn’t always easy – I really struggled with recurring injuries while I was at East Fife. I think the old saying “what doesn’t hurt you, makes you stronger” really applies to my career. I later played in the USA with Rochester Rhinos in the A-League (now the USL, at the time the US second division) and Tampa Bay Mutiny (in the MLS). I also continued to play for Trinidad and Tobago for three years after leaving Scotland.
Do you have any regrets about your time at East Fife? Would you liked to have stayed longer?
I don’t have any regrets at all – I think everything happens for a reason. I still have the fun memories to keep with me. I hope that one day I can make a trip back to Fife with my wife and my two boys.
What is the proudest moment of your career overall?
There’s not one specific moment I would pick above all the others. My time at East Fife, although it was short-lived, is still a really important part of my career. Every time I wore the Trinidad and Tobago shirt, from youth to senior level, and being part of college and professional championship winning teams in the US were all fantastic moments.
Why do you think we don’t see more Caribbean footballers in the UK?
I think now is a good time for Caribbean footballers generally – there is a fair amount of Caribbean players at various levels in the UK. Now, more so than ever, Caribbean players are having opportunities to go to other countries and make a living playing the game.
You mentioned that you haven’t heard from Arnold Dwarika or Gavin Lewis in a while – do you keep up with any other Trinidadians who played in Scotland? For example, Russell Latapy, Jerren Nixon, Tony Rougier?
I keep up through the internet and through mutual friends. Russell Latapy had a stint as head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago national team. Tony Rougier was with me at Rochester Rhinos, he’s now back in Trinidad and very much involved in football.
What is the standard of football in the Caribbean at the moment, and Trinidad and Tobago in particular? Should more football scouts and agents from the UK go to the Caribbean to pick up players?
I think at the moment football in Trinidad and Tobago football has slowed down since the high point of World Cup qualification in 2006. There’s a lot of work being done at the moment to get us back to where we were a few years ago. We still have many talented young players who are eager to display their ability to teams in the UK.
What do you think of your fellow countryman Mr Jack Warner and his time in charge of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union?
Mr Warner has done a many great things for football in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. It’s sad to see the manner in which his reign came to an end.
I notice from your website you now run soccer camps in the United States. How much do you get out of passing your skills and experience on to the next generation of footballers? How many kids you see come through your camps every year? Has MLS and the like helped the enthusiasm for football in the USA?
Fortunately, there are lots of kids playing soccer in the US today. I would say that soccer is one of the more popular sports for kids. Having played for a number of years here in Rochester, it was an easy choice to stay here and get involve in coaching. Every year I have about 250-300 kids come through my camps and it’s great to see them enjoying soccer as much as they do.
MLS has continued to improve and provide a standard of soccer that will, I think, lead to a brighter future for the sport in the US. I think also the influx of top European teams making trips to the US for pre-season tournaments and the availability of top world class soccer on the TV and other media has also helped in promoting the game in the US.
Do you think the men’s team in the USA could match the women’s eventually and win a World Cup?
I hope so, but it’s going to be difficult. In the men’s side of things, soccer has continue to improve but still soccer to America is not what soccer is to Brazil, Spain or Argentina, for example, where the game is a way of life, a religion. How the rest of the world views soccer resembles how the mass public in the US view American Football, Basketball or Baseball.