'Coach's dream'

Boyz' tactician Whitmore endorses Nations League ahead of Jamaica-Aruba clash

Deputy sport editor

Friday, October 11, 2019

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Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore has given the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) yet another ringing endorsement on the eve of his team's twin assignments against Aruba.

Jamaica will seek to continue their dominance in Group C of League B of Concacaf's three-tier national competition when they face the Arubans at the National Stadium tomorrow in the first of two matches against the visitors at 5:00 pm.

On Tuesday at 6:00 pm (Jamaica time) in Curacao, both nations will meet again in a completion of the home-and-away tie.

So far Jamaica lead the standings with maximum six points after convincing wins over Antigua and Barbuda (6-0) and Guyana (4-0) in September.

Whitmore, the hero of Jamaica's historic France '98 World Cup campaign, says the CNL has opened a well of opportunity for functionaries across the gamut of the sport in the Concacaf region, more so the Caribbean and Central America.

“The Concacaf Nations League is a coach's dream. This is great for the practising and development of our craft as we are guaranteed matches on a regular and consistent basis.
“Before the Nations League, we had to rely on friendly matches which often-times did not materialise in all the FIFA match windows. Now we can plan long-term and be even more strategic and deliberate,” the Boyz coach told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Whitmore argues that having consistent competitive matches in which the stakes are high forces teams into a culture of striving to raise their game.

“The Nations League guarantees competitive matches, and this creates a platform of pressure which is good for the players, coaches and administrators. Pressure is what develops and sharpens skills. The more we operate in this environment the better prepared we are for even bigger moments,” he reasoned.

Whitmore, who played professionally in the United Kingdom, says that so much hinges on the CNL that there is no room for complacency.

“It (CNL) will definitely serve as a good preparatory platform for our players ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for 2022 and also the 2021 Gold Cup. Yes, friendly matches against top-quality opponents are fine, but will not prove as invaluable as official matches, regardless of the opponent. When points are on the line, it's a much different motivation and mindset from all concerned,” he noted.

Significantly, doing well in the CNL and maintaining a top-six ranking in Concacaf guarantees Jamaica an automatic place in the hexagonal of the World Cup qualifiers slated to begin next year, so the stakes have never been higher.

For that reason, Whitmore is taking no chances and has gone about strengthening his pool of players who will give him leverage to respond to all eventualities as Jamaica attempt to stay the course for success down the road.

“Currently, we are taking every opportunity to improve our squad in all departments as analysis following the 2019 Gold Cup suggested we were short in key areas on the pitch. For this four-year cycle we need three, even four competent players in every position as a number of factors will occur including injuries, illnesses, suspensions, lack of form, lack of playing time at clubs, travel issues, etcetera, that could rule players out.

“We, therefore, need a deep pool. Nations League is already helping us to identify and test new talents,” he said.

The Boyz are currently ranked 47th by Fifa and fourth in Concacaf.

Looking at his team's performance to date in the CNL, Whitmore is pleased with most areas, maintaining there is room for improvement.

“Our team has done well in our first two matches of the CNL as we are not only scoring goals, but we are also having clean sheets.

“I was particularly pleased with how we possessed and circulated the ball in the matches, especially the first game against Antigua and Barbuda in Montego Bay.

“Also, I think the new players are adapting very well and the chemistry is improving. All we need is to remain concentrated and take each game on its merit,” the former Tranmere Rovers and Livingston midfielder concluded.

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