With the campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to start later this year, it’s time for us to throw on our Reggae Boyz hats and rejoin the bandwagon. This is the time in which the national senior men’s football coach, Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore and the Jamaica Football Federation [JFF] hierarchy will “look at players”. Frankly, every Jamaican football fan knows this phrase, as long as Tappa has been in the head coach seat he’s been looking at players. Mark you, Tappa first ascended to the role of head coach in 2009.
With that said, there is renewed optimism among local fans. A lot of that has to do with Leon Bailey finally appearing in the Reggae Boyz shirt, but for me, it is the thought of a few other foreign based players completing the puzzle that has me excited. For starters, we haven’t been able to fill the central creative midfield role, a player that can provide the cutting edge in the final third. We’ve heard rumblings about Ravel Morrison joining the set up and all indications suggest the only thing left for him to do is step on to the pitch. An artist with the ball at his feet, the only concern here is how quickly he can adapt to playing with the rest of this team.
It is a position that is also suited perfectly for homegrown Tyreek Magee and Peter-Lee Vassell, both of whom are trying to establish themselves abroad for their respective clubs. Once all 3 get regular playing time, Tappa will be left with a serious selection headache.
With Leon Bailey already having a lock on that right wing position, let’s look on the other flank. Garath McCleary is an out and out winger that has performed admirably for the Boyz. At 32, he’s past his best but is still very exciting on the dribble and very experienced. Two of Tappa’s own favourites include Ricardo Morris and Dever Orgill. One can single-handedly decide a game with his left boot, while the other works hard off the ball, potent in attack and fits the bill as a support striker.
An outside pick here is Rolando Aarons. Aarons has been on the periphery of the Newcastle squad for some time, and most recently played on loan at Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership. Aarons is one that would provide much needed width on the left, is very pacey and can provide defensive cover for our left-back.
At this point, I wouldn’t tamper too much with the striker position. Shamar Nicholson should be no. 1 in the position; Cardiff City’s Bobby Reid is there for support and can also play off the left, not to mention Jamaica’s most successful striker for the better part of the last decade, Darren Mattocks. Anderlecht’s Kemar Roofe should also be considered. Roofe racked up 6 goals and 2 assists from 13 starts in his first season in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League this season. Miami FCs’s Romario Williams has all the traits to be a regular for the team going forward as well.
The only other position that may be of real concern for the Boyz may be the defensive midfielder role, for which there is not much cover. Devon “Speedy” Williams, Andre Lewis – arguably the most efficient passer in the Jamaican set up, Kevon Lambert and Michael Hector have all been performing admirably well in the deep-lying midfielder role. The backline is pretty solid as it is: Damion Lowe, Alvas Powell, Adrian Mariappa, Kemar Lawrence and Shaun Francis have all proven to be able stalwarts at the back, while Andre Blake has consistently been among the top 3 goalkeepers in the region. With young defenders Ajeanie Talbott, Javain Brown and Jamoi Topey coming through the ranks, the future is bright.
Will it all come together the way I designed it in my head? Probably not. Will all of the aforementioned players be willing to wear their heart on their sleeves for Jamaica “Land We Love”? Only time will tell, but as it stands the prospect of a Reggae Boyz squad laced with players boasting European experience is mouth-watering.