The process of rebuilding the Jamaican National Senior Men’s program will be a long and arduous one. The pre-2026 campaign may need to mock a similar template to the one that got us to the World Cup in 1998. The gems in the rough were found pretty early – Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, Ian “Pepe” Goodison, Peter Cargill, Warren Barrett and Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner. The next step was to build a team around that core group of players that coach Rene Simoes could rely on. Despite the other obvious issues the Jamaica Football Federation needs to fix, using this philosophy could be the foundation of our 2026 World Cup qualification.
King’s competitive debut for Jamaica will probably live long in his memory, not because of the negative result but because of his performance and the impression he left on the nation’s coaching staff and supporters. The 20-year-old was one of the youngest members in the squad, but played like the most experienced head in an unfortunate loss against the Costa Ricans. His composure, passing range and power were distinctive, holding off the Costa Rican attackers for the majority of the game. His qualities are raw but the boy is clearly gifted, already receiving comparisons with Boyz legend Ian Goodison. If he does not receive the necessary guidance and exposure that will be keen to his development, then we will be looking at a player who would have failed to maximize on potential.
Bailey experienced his first taste of World Cup qualifying after making his long-awaited debut in 2019. Well, somewhat. He has only managed to play two qualifiers so far, being absent through injury from the other fixtures. However, once fit, Bailey is a threat to any opposition. His 1 goal in 12 caps for Jamaica does not tell the full story but without a doubt, the “baller” is perhaps one of the most technically gifted players in the region. A player of his quality is an asset for any team.
In four years time, Shaw will be 28. What he does between now and then will be crucial for his development as a promising central midfielder. Shaw is highly rated as a relatively new member of the Reggae Boyz senior squad and his potential has already been acknowledged by new coach Paul Hall. His qualities are rare and unique compared to the other players in the team and if he is on
the field, it would give more license to players like Daniel Johnson and Ravel Morrison to trod forward and pose a greater threat to the opposition. Shaw’s impact on the Reggae Boyz would mostly derive from his development away from the team, at club level. Recently, he made the switch from Portmore United in the Jamaica Premier League to Atletico Ottawa in the Canadian Premier League. Hopefully, through his performances, he is able to achieve a bigger move to a more competitive league in the near future.
The country has perhaps forgotten just how good Tyreek Magee can be. His exclusion from the most recent World Cup qualifying squads was mostly down to his lack of involvement at club level with KAS Eupen in the Belgian Pro League. However, his few cameos in the national jersey, particularly against the United States and Costa Rica, showed glimpses of the talismanic capabilities that the 22-year-old possesses. Understandably, Magee may be lacking in confidence at the moment. However, with the right team, the right environment and a platform to comfortably display his attributes, then he could very well be that crucial gear in the team’s engine room.
They say goalkeepers get better as they get older. Andre Blake is already considered to be Jamaica’s best ever goalkeeper, so if he is to get better it would be a strong point for the national team. Blake will be 35-years-old in 2026, prime years for a goalkeeper and perhaps his last attempt to lead Jamaica to the World Cup. Blake typically leads from the front despite being the last line of defense. The stunning saves that we’re accustomed to seeing from the Clarendonian can inspire his teammates and the nation alike.