When the news broke that the much-anticipated call-up for West Ham United striker Michail Antonio was finally about to happen, home-grown talent and incumbent striker for the Jamaica national team, Shamar ‘Boza’ Nicholson, must have been at the very least concerned with where his future lies in coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore’s starting XI.
Nicholson, who has arguably been Jamaica’s best attacking player in recent times, was immediately dropped at the first opportunity to accommodate the English-born forward’s first start for the Reggae Boyz vs. Panama.
Many would say that Antonio’s immediate inclusion was justified, given the fact that he is the English Premier League’s top goal scorer with 4 goals whilst also accumulating 3 assists, making him one of the most in-form attackers in Europe at the moment. Much of the talk since his inclusion has been centered around how crucial Antonio will be for the remaining fixtures of the World Cup Qualifiers as Jamaica currently has a mountain to climb following their failed attempt to register a single victory in any of their first three opening fixtures.
Shamar Nicholson could perhaps feel as though his past performances for the national team have been overshadowed by Antonio’s arrival, which could perhaps explain the passion in his celebration when he equalized for Jamaica against Costa Rica last week. With 2 goals from 3 matches, Nicholson is Jamaica’s leading goal scorer in qualification and by far, is the one who consistently looks to be the most commanding goal threat whenever he starts. He is the man the team – and most Reggae Boyz fans – rely on as a source of goals, having scored 3 goals in his last 6 competitive starts.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Nicholson has also been at the forefront of some of Jamaica’s most memorable results in recent years including that famous 1-0 victory over USA in 2019, where he scored that stunning goal to silence the fans inside the Audi Field Stadium in Washington. But with the inclusion of Antonio and Kemar Roofe, there has been a lot of talk of those two players becoming trump cards, featuring heavily for the Boyz all the way to potential appearances in Qatar 2022. In some quarters, it is being said Jamaica is now blessed with strikers that can play anywhere across the front four, something not all the top teams in the region can boast.
The quest to fill the team with more attacking talent seems disoriented and aimless from the Jamaica Football Federation and also suggests that perhaps Nicholson has not done enough to convince them that he is the man to lead the forward line, despite his exploits internationally and at the club level.
Count Nicholson out at your own peril.
Since making his debut for Jamaica in 2017, Boza has scored 10 goals in 25 appearances, averaging almost a goal per game. At just 24-years-old, Nicholson stands poised to threaten the national team record of 35 goals, which is set by the late Luton Shelton.
In addition to a good international record, Boza has also been attracting a lot of attention at club level, quickly becoming one of the most talked about names in Belgium.
So far this season, Nicholson has amassed 4 goals and 1 assist in 6 appearances in the Belgian Pro League, continuing his good run of form from last season, where he had 13 goal contributions in 33 appearances.
In the context of the Jamaican National team, the argument should not even consist of who is the better player. Boza’s inclusion versus Antonio’s simply boils down to chemistry and adaptability. Antonio’s versatility should not be questioned and can be a useful asset for any coach. But Nicholson’s hunger and chemistry with the team would perhaps give him the advantage at the moment in the discussion as to who should be Jamaica’s leading man.
Though Nicholson’s starting spot may be threatened, his attitude and professionalism will be tested in the coming weeks as he fights to establish his name once again in the starting XI. However, starting or not, his involvement in the squad will be crucial if Jamaica wants to qualify for their second ever World Cup Finals.
The familiarity amongst the players and the camaraderie is an issue that has been evident throughout the years within the Reggae Boyz squad. Going forward, Tappa will have the tough decision to make on who leads his attack, a decision that perhaps seems daunting but one that surely signals an improvement in the quality of players we have had to choose from over the years.