Better days ahead for the Reggae Boyz
The Sporting EDGEThursday, September 16, 2021
With Paul Reid
Sports, we have come to realise, is never played on paper, and the teams and players must go into competition and prove themselves worthy.
If all we needed to do was put names on paper to get results, why then would we even need to play the games?
And, despite knowing all this and more, after seeing the names that were available to Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore for the first three games in the final round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying, it did not stop us from pencilling in seven points.
Michail Antonio is arguably the biggest name we have ever attracted to play for the ReggaeBoyz, at least since 1996, and together with Liam Moore and Ethan Pinnock anchoring the defence and with Ravel Morrison and Daniel Johnson in the midfield, what was there not to like and to start making plans for Qatar next year?
We always knew that no matter who we took to Mexico it would be difficult in the Azteca and a point would have been a win, and we were sure that we would be able to roll over Panama and Costa Rica.
Well, things did not go as planned, we gave up a late goal after going toe to toe with big, bad Mexico in Mexico, and then were shocked 0-3 at home by Panama with our UK-based “stars”, before scrambling for a draw against Costa Rica.
As it stands Jamaica are at the bottom of the eight-team table on a single point.
However, we cannot give up yet, not with another 11 games to be played and six of them at home. And thanks to the slow start by others, we are still in the race for a top four place and hence, a trip to the Fifa World Cup next year.
We would not be Jamaicans if we did not find excuses and yes, I have a few; one of which is the ill-timed and ridiculous “red zone ban” by the English Football Association of players, who play in the top two-tier system in England, going to a number of countries did not help us at all.
Two of our first three games were in red zone countries, and so we had to play without some of our best players – on paper.
There was a lot of praise for our “improved performance” against Costa Rica but, in my opinion, we appeared better only because we did not lose the game, and the point we earned glossed over an error-filled performance.
With a little luck, here and there, we could have had three more points. Had we held on against Mexico and then taken our chances against Costa Rica, we would have been better off going into the next set of games next month.
Yes, to be honest, the raft of late changes against Mexico did not help, and what we saw at the National Stadium against Panama was, to be honest, the worst display I have ever seen by a Jamaican senior men's team, even worse than our 0-8 loss to France and 0-6 to England years ago.
Our need for a clinical striker was painfully obvious against an old and tired Costa Rica team that, I have no doubt, we will beat in the return round.
But, it can only get better, we hope, and so we must continue to support Tappa and the players and, hopefully, after the first three games we must, by now, know our best starting team.
I have no doubt that Whitmore and the coaching staff will get it right and we will improve and be among the contenders come crunch time.