'Bibi' is back! Gardner recalled to Boyz set-up for Caribbean Cup
IN a surprising move, 34-year-old Ricardo 'Bibi' Gardner has been recalled to the Reggae Boyz squad for the upcoming Caribbean Cup tournament after a three-year absence.
Gardner, along with fellow England-based Keammar Daley and the USA-based duo of Ryan Johnson and Omar Cummings, is expected to join the Jamaican camp, assistant coach Alfredo Montesso told the Jamaica Observer yesterday at a training session at the JFF Technical Centre as the team finetunes for the defence of their Caribbean title between December 7-16.
"We have four players that will join the team in Johnson (Ryan), Cummings (Omar), Kaemmar Daley and Ricardo Gardner. These players with good experience will be a good addition to the team as we use the Caribbean Cup in preparation for the World Cup," Montesso said following the near 11/2-hour training session.
While US-based Cummings and Johnson have been an integral part of Jamaica's squad during the World Cup campaign, Gardner and Daley were overlooked mainly because of their inactivity at the club level.
Former Reggae Boyz captain Gardner is currently a free agent after being released by English club Bolton Wanderers following a fruitful 14-year spell, while 24-year-old Daley, who signed for Preston North End in August 2011, has not been playing regularly, which was cited as the main reason for his exclusion.
"The change is with the opportunity, and in the Caribbean Cup we have five games in 10 days, and I think this is the opportunity to bring players like him (Daley) and Gardner who is training with Bolton but not playing... it is a good opportunity for the technical staff to see them and their actual condition," Montesso explained.
Gardner, who made his Jamaican debut in 1997, went on to represent his country for 12 years and earned approximately 109 caps during which he was captain between 2005 and 2009 when he last played.
"The training was good with high intensity from the players and they were really focused and committed with the training. So we did some drills in the defensive line and some combinations with the strikers and midfielders, and to play with more vertical situation to the goal.
"They responded very well and we did some ball possession in a short game situation and they showed a lot of energy, lot of movement and good passes and that was very positive," noted Montesso.
Meanwhile, head coach Theodore Whitmore watched yesterday's proceedings from the sidelines as Montesso directed the session.
Jamaica, who won the Caribbean Cup on five occasions and are the current back-to-back defending champion, are drawn in Group B alongside French Guiana, Martinique and Cuba. Hosts Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and the Dominican Republic will compete in Group A.
The four semi-finalists will gain automatic berths to next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup to be held in the United States.