'I'm fully committed!'
QPR frontman Andre Gray reaffirms loyalty to World Cup-chasing BoyzSunday, December 05, 2021
Even as the World Cup qualifying campaign has not gone according to plan, English-born forward Andre Gray remains committed and inspired.
After eight games in the Concacaf Octagonal, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz sit unappetisingly in sixth spot on a mere seven points.
As it stands, Jamaica are precariously outside the qualifying zone where the top-three finishers will automatically advance to Qatar 2022. The fourth-place finisher has a chance to give Concacaf an additional spot from an intercontinental home-and-away play-off.
Canada lead the race with 16 points, followed by the USA (15), Mexico (14), Panama (14), Costa Rica (nine), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six), and Honduras (three).
“Obviously, we would love to be higher up in the table and we always expect better of ourselves, but we still have enough games and points to win to achieve our dreams,” Gray told the Jamaica Observer from England recently.
With six matches to go, starting with a home fixture against Mexico on January 27, the on-loan Queens Park Rangers (QPR) striker believes that a strong spirit of unity and purpose will redound to the benefit of the team as it embarks on the quest to turn fortunes around.
“I think the most critical thing is staying together as a team, that team spirit and will to fight for each other is what it's going to take for us to do it,” he suggested.
And even though he has had a limited role for one reason or another, the 30-year-old's love and purpose as Jamaica look to achieve great things remain unshakable.
“I'm fully committed, always have been, always will, and I will never turn down the opportunity to represent my country unless I am injured,” Gray asserted.
The former Luton Town star argued that injury has played a part in stymying his seamless arrival to the Jamaica setup.
But Gray believes his ability, which was on display when he scored a super goal for QPR last week, will eventually vindicate him.
“I know what I am capable of, but I just think inconsistency of me playing games the last 18 months has been difficult, so I don't think I have come to the national team fully match fit and match sharp, but hopefully now I can show that if called upon again,” reasoned sturdily built attacker.
Gray, a Watford regular until his loan move to QPR, also believes “limited” playing time has mitigated against him having the stage to truly show his quality.
“As a footballer your never satisfied with limited opportunities, and I'm no different, especially because I know what I can bring to the team,” he noted.
Even with his quality and experience, Gray — who has played some seven matches and one goal to his name — knows he has his work cut out for him if he's to bulldoze his way into the starting line-up of a team brimming with offensive promise.
Jamaica are fortunate to have West Ham's Michail Antonio, Charleroi's Shamar Nicholson, Aston Villa's Leon Bailey, Philadelphia Union's Corey Burke, Rangers' Kemar Roofe, even as fans are yet to see this rich mine of talent converted into a positive for the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore has been the target for blame, with football watchers questioning his management of the available talent and his tactical applications.
But even as public chorus for his sacking reaches a crescendo — enforced by a recommendation to this effect by the Technical Committee of the Jamaica Football Federation — the former Boyz midfielder appears to enjoy the steely support of the player pool.
“We are all behind the coach and staff. Like I said, we are in it together as one and there is no changing that,” Gray said.
Playing in the British professional leagues, including at the Premiership level, Gray has some 155 goals in nearly 500 matches.
— Sean Williams