PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller has thrown her full support behind head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore and his Reggae Boyz to come out victorious in tomorrow's crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Panama inside the National Stadium. Game time is 8:30 pm.
"You are carrying the hopes of a proud nation on your shoulders. I don't think you have a bigger supporter of the Reggae Boyz than me. I know you will perform well," said Simpson Miller as she addressed the squad and Jamaica Foootball Federation officials who paid a courtesy call on her at Jamaica House yesterday.
Simpson Miller also urged Whitmore to brace himself for the possible reaction of the Jamaican fans depending on the outcome.
"Coach, if you win they are going to lift you out of the stadium. If you lose you are going to get what we call in Jamaica, a tracing," Simpson Miller said.
Meanwhile, the Boyz have maintained an intensive training regime since their first session at the JFF Technical Centre in Mona on Monday in preparation for Panama, a bogey team for Jamaica over the years.
At Tuesday's training session at the National Stadium, with all 24 players available, Whitmore indicated that, while all have not been achieved in terms of the tactical and technical areas, progress was being made.
"We are getting there. It's a day by day situation, but [I am] somewhat pleased," said the former Jamaica standout.
While Tuesday's training session may have given the onlooker an idea of Jamaica's possible starting team tomorrow, the depth and quality available to Whitmore could make his final 11 not as predictable as many may want to think.
In that practice session, an 'A' team of sorts saw Donovan Ricketts in goal, Adrian Mariappa and Nyron Nosworthy in the centre of the defence, with Jermaine Taylor and Demar Phillips as wing backs.
Ahead of them in a four-prong were Reading's captain Jobi McAnuff, Marvin Elliott, Rodolph Austin and Garath McCleary, while the wily Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson partnered Ryan Johnson up front.
"We are yet to select the starting 11, so any of the 24 can still make the starting team," said Whitmore after Tuesday's session.
The Boyz are currently lying in joint second place in the hexagonal round, with one point, alongside Panama and Costa Rica, who drew 2-2 in Panama City, and Mexico, with whom they drew 0-0 in Mexico City, and two behind early leaders Honduras, who beat the pointless USA 2-1 at home in San Pedro Sula.
In their opening game, the Boyz produced a magnificent performance to create history by holding Mexico 0-0 at the Azteca and, while momentum from that game would help to take the team forward, assistant coach Alfredo Montesso has warned that it will be a diffrent ball game against Panama.
"Now our approach has to be different, we have to take some more risks in the game because we are playing at home... so once we put our feet on the ground, understand our limitations, know our potential, and work really hard at that, I believe we have a chance to do a very good game against Panama," said the Brazilian.
Just prior to the kick-off of the semi-final phase of the CONCACAF Qualifiers last summer, the Boyz engaged Panama in a home-and-away friendly series, losing both, 0-1 and 1-2, respectively.
Going into tomorrow's match-up, Jamaica are ranked 54 by FIFA, while Panama are situated at number 41.
FULL SQUAD: Donovan Ricketts, Dwayne Miller, Duwayne Kerr, Nyron Nosworthy, Lloyd Doyley, Adrian Mariappa, Jermaine Taylor, Demar Phillips, Omar Daley, Marvin Elliott, Rodolph Austin, Joel McAnuff, Garath McCleary, Theo Robinson, Je-vaughn Watson, Jermaine Beckford, Jermaine Johnson, Luton Shelton, Ryan Johnson, Traimaine Stewart, Dane Richards, Jermaine Hue, Alvas Powell, and Andre Lewis.