Senior Boyz squad still a work in progress, says Whitmore
Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore says it would be premature at this time to measure the progress of his “new” team, preferring to wait for more of the building blocks to fall into place.
In a new-look team since his reappointment to the helm of the senior Jamaica side, the France 1998 World Cup hero had safely navigated the Boyz to the CFU final round in June, and by extension, to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.
In the previous round of the CFU play-offs late last year, the Boyz delivered a 1-0 home win against Suriname, after pulling off the great escape by rallying from two goals down to beat Guyana 4-2 away in Georgetown.
In two quick-fire friendly internationals in the USA in February, Jamaica lost to the hosts 0-1 in Tennessee, and less than two weeks later, clipped Central American rivals Honduras 1-0 in Houston, Texas.
By any measure, the start to his new tenure could be safely regarded as a good one, but Whitmore will not get ahead of himself, fully recognising that his team is still a work in progress and some way off from getting to the level required to be successful for the upcoming engagements.
“Happy would be a strong word as there are a lot of things to be done and things to be put in place. I think if I am still at the helm before going into the next World Cup qualifying campaign, then you could come back and ask me that question, and then I would be in a better position to give as honest an answer as possible,” Whitmore told the Jamaica Observer.
Though he desires them, the former Tranmere Rovers midfielder says while negotiations with prospective opponents are an ongoing exercise, there are no confirmed international friendlies on the horizon ahead of the Caribbean Cup and the Gold Cup.
“We had a planning meeting this morning (last Wednesday) and following on that we will begin training later this month in preparation for the upcoming CFU tournament and Gold Cup.
“When it comes to friendlies, there is none offhand right now, but there is something that we have been discussing and something we want to go for,” Whitmore said.
The senior Boyz head coach has won support from many quarters for reintroducing his policy of focusing on local-bred, home-based and youth players in the construction of the team.
Over the years, the governing Jamaica Football Federation had practised a heavy reliance on foreign-born players, with the benefit being a mixed bag at best.
“It’s something (local-born-and-bred players) I am always lobbying for. If you remember, when I was the coach in 2013 it was mainly local-based players I had in the team, and a lot of people, even those in the media, say that the local players can’t do it and we must go for foreign players.
“Now they (media) are the same ones who are saying now that we must go back to local players. So sometimes I just have to be grounded, confident and keep the belief in what I am doing and we will get success,” said Whitmore who, as a player, had a professional stint with Livingston in Scotland.
In the Gold Cup slated for July 7-26 in 14 US cities, the Boyz have been drawn in Group C with nemesis Mexico, El Salvador and Curacao. In Group A, Costa Rica, Honduras, French Guiana and Canada will battle, while the USA, Panama, Martinique and Haiti or Nicaragua will make up Group B.
In the semi-finals of the Caribbean Cup, Jamaica will oppose French Guiana on June 22, while Curacao take on hosts Martinique on the same day. The winners will contest the final three days later.
— Sean Williams