Boyz coach grapples with finding right blend of players ahead of tour
NINE local-based players have been selected to join the ranks of the Reggae Boyz in a series of high-quality friendly internationals over the next two weeks.
The squad, which has been chopped and changed repeatedly due to the unavailability of foreign-based players for varying reasons, will also include debutante Simon Dawkins, a 26-year-old striker from Derby County in the English Championships.
The Boyz face European outfit Serbia at the Red Bulls Arena, New Jersey, in the United States at 3:00 pm next Monday. Then they travel to World Cup-bound Switzerland in Lucerne on May 30, before engaging Egypt in London on June 4, then closing out the glamour tour against former World Cup champions France in Lille on June 8.
Head coach Winfried Schaefer was at pains to explain the difficulties administrators of the Jamaica Football Federation faced in selecting the squad.
"For two months we corresponded with all the overseas clubs about the first three games confirmed (Serbia, Switzerland and France), some clubs (primarily MLS and Scandinavia) agreed to release players, then changed," he explained to the media, yesterday.
The fact that the games will be contested outside the FIFA window means that clubs are not obliged to release players.
Having done his homework on the Serbs, he said that the Boyz need to be "strong and compact in midfield", as opposed to the wings, but the constant chopping and changing was forcing his hand and he might not end up with the strongest possible midfield balance.
The coach, who agreed to a four-year contract with the JFF earlier this year, had no illusions about the immediate task at hand in these four games, but he wants the Boyz to give of their best and do the country proud.
With regard to the local-based players, he said they knew well in advance about these games as he had repeatedly advised them of what they needed to do to catch his fancy.
"This is your (local players) chance to shine, because nobody from Europe watches the Waterhouse vs Montego Bay United (final), but scouts will watch these friendlies, so now is your chance. Because if you do well, you could earn a contract."
Schaefer highlighted some of the issues he's encountered in trying to get players. He said he even visited a few of the MLS clubs personally and met with the coaches, with some agreeing to release players, then, at the 11th hour, reneging on the oral agreement.
As a result, eight of the nine local players are slated for all four games, with Montego Bay's Dino Williams down to contest only the last two.
Dwayne Miller, of Sweden's Syrianska, makes a return to the national side after successfully recovering from two knee surgeries and will be available for all four games, as do Dawkins, and 26-year-old Joel Grant of Yeovil Town, Michael Seaton, Chris Humphrey, and Lloyd Doyley.
Veteran defenders Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa will be available for the last three games, while goalkeeper Andre Blake will be available for the first two; Dwayne Kerr for the last against France; Demar Phillips for the second against Switzerland; and Darren Mattocks and Deshorn Brown for the first two.
It is still uncertain if Je-Vaughn Watson will be released.
Meanwhile, Garath McCleary, Shawn Cummings and Nyron Nosworthy are all nursing injuries and are not fully fit, while Jobi McAnuff is out of contract at Reading FC and is busy trying to earn a contract. Coach Schaefer has also noted that Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon has agreed to join the Boyz and should be part of the Caribbean Cup squad.
The local-based players leave the island today.
SQUAD (for first match) -- Upston Edwards, Kemar Lawrence, Nicholas Beckett, Romario Campbell, Hughan Gray, Nicoly Finlayson, Jacomeno Barrett, Rodolph Austin, John-Ross Edwards, Michael Seaton, Deshorn Brown, Darren Mattocks, Dwayne Miller, Andre Blake, Joel Grant, Simon Dawkins, Christopher Humphrey, Lloyd Doyley, and Dino Williams.