CHARLIE S ISLANDS OF SOCCER DREAMS

FOOTBALL coach Charlie Cook, who swapped the Marsh Farm estate for the sun-kissed Caribbean, has landed another dream job.The former University of Luton student has left the British Virgin Islands, where he was in charge of the national team, to become technical director for the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association.Charlie, 26, arrived on the small group of islands just south of the Bahamas earlier this month and now faces the massive task of trying to lead the national side to the 2002 World Cup Finals. As well as preparing the team for the qualifier against St Kitts and Nevis in early March, he has been brought in to run development programmes for youth, schools and women s football.The News-Gazette told in July how Charlie and his friend, Gary White, had moved from Marsh Farm to the West Indies after drifting out of the English game.During their search for work they sent faxes to nearly 200 countries who are members of FIFA world football s governing body.They received a handful of replies from Costa Rica, New Zealand, two small Asian countries and the British Virgin Islands.After their appointment as coaches to the BVI national team, they lifted the British dependent territory (population 18,000) from 187th to 161st place in the FIFA rankings in six months. Following their success, Charlie was promoted to technical director and Gary, 24, moved to the Bahamas to take up a similar job.Charlie, a former Brentford player, was offered the Turks and Caicos job shortly before Christmas and arrived on the islands on January 8 after spending the New Year in Nassau with Gary.He is now aiming to improve on his record with the BVI, and said: It s a massive task, but after the success I enjoyed in the BVI, I am very confident that we can outdo them this year and further in the future. We are currently 196th in the world, but we will shortly be moving up. We have the players, the desire and most of all me directing us on the way to Japan/Korea 2002. Charlie said he had received many phone calls from friends in Luton following July s story in The News-Gazette, and a follow-up in November, about his coaching career.The Caribbean island teams travel to matches by motor boat and most training sessions take place in the evening because of the extreme heat.Gary played professionally in Australia and Charlie took a degree course in sports fitness and science at the University of Luton from 1993-97.They met while coaching Major League Soccer in America and shared a house in Wauluds Bank Drive, Marsh Farm, in the shadow of the estate s tower blocks, before going in search of the sun.