Recruits must be fully committed to Jamaica's cause
As the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) three-man delegation, led by Captain Horace Burrell, embarks on its scouting mission in the United Kingdom today, we urge them to proceed with caution.
We do so not because this newspaper harbours any scepticism about soliciting the services of foreign-born players with Jamaican roots. In fact, we fully support such a move because of the obvious need to strengthen the national squad ahead of the final phase of World Cup qualifiers next year.
However, we urge caution because we believe there is a thin line between upgrading the team and upsetting team chemistry with wholesale changes.
That there is a definite need for upgrading is without question. One needs to look no further than the less-than stellar performances in the recently concluded semi-final phase, where Jamaica advanced from Group A in second place ahead of Guatemala on goal difference — a historic 2-1 victory over the United States notwithstanding.
A number of weak areas, including wing defence, midfield and forward, were exposed during this period. We speak of frailties that will hurt the Reggae Boyz in the final phase — if not corrected — against regional powers Mexico, USA, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras.
The six top teams in CONCACAF will be vying for one of three automatic berths to the 2014 Brazil World Cup Finals. The fourth place team will enter a two-game play-off with the winner of the Oceania Confederation.
Captain Burrell, head coach Mr Theodore Whitmore, and his assistant Mr Alfredo Montesso have indicated that they will engage nine players with a view to joining the team, as well as re-engage a number of players who have been left out of the team in recent times.
According to Captain Burrell, "If it is that the best players are local based... and are here playing in the local Premier League, they will be on the field. If it is that we don't have any and our better players are abroad... I can tell you that for the final phase we will be pulling out all the stops".
The JFF president also emphasised that the trio will sit with the clubs and players, discuss all the issues, and "unite the family, because the best 11 is going to be on that field — no two ways about that".
During the semi-final phase, an injury to the influential left wing back Mr Demar Phillips created a severe imbalance in the team which was glaring. Still, for those two games against the USA, the team managed one win and a loss. However, it is unlikely to escape in the final round without high-quality replacements available on the bench. In such a long campaign involving 10 games of each team, enforced absences for top players because of injury or card suspensions are inevitable.
We trust that Messrs Whitmore and Montesso would have carefully sieved through the host of possible candidates before identifying the nine players to be interviewed, bearing in mind the importance of retaining a strong core which would make it easier to maintain team chemistry.
That these players are fully committed to representing Jamaica, and not just here for the ride or adding to their resumes, would be an understatement. It was very comforting to hear Captain Burrell say that these players have to want to wear the Jamaican colours. "We're not interested in any players who have no interest," he said. "That's not what this trip is about. Jamaica is a very proud country and we don't want to be patronised by anyone.
"These people must have the genuine desire to play for the country and a commitment to give it 100 per cent."
We wish them success.