When national senior men's football team Head Coach Heimir Hallgrímsson spoke about the positives he saw in the squad that faced Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) in two recent international friendly matches, one of the players he paid attention to was Delano McCoy-Splatt.
McCoy-Splatt, 18, was born in London, England, and is the captain of Fulham's Under-18 team, but also features for the U-21s. He is Jamaican by parentage and was raised to love football by his father, from Spanish Town, St Catherine, who was also a Manning Cup player for St George's College, and his three brothers who also play but in the lower tiers of English football.
But despite not living in Jamaica, McCoy-Splatt did not experience a culture shock when he arrived on the island to play. He says he has been immersed in Jamaican culture all his life, having grown up in a family that fully embraces its roots, and also visits the island regularly. Citing Chronixx and Jah Cure among his favourite musicians, McCoy-Splatt says he also understands patois fully, although he doesn't speak it.
"Even just with food at home," he said, "I've only been eating Jamaican food, so I'm very close to the culture already."
He mentioned dumplings, ackee and salt fish, oxtail, and rice and peas as some of his favourite dishes, but also said patties are a must-have whenever he's on the island.
"Sometimes when I come here, I'll bring some [back to England] – not sure if I'm meant to be doing that though," he said with a grin.
He made his international debut at centre midfield on March 11 but T&T won the game 1-0. He says his main goal is to impress so that he can be a key figure in the team and hopefully qualify for the next FIFA World Cup in 2026.
"Fulham got in contact with me and said, 'This is where it is: they [Jamaica] want you to come to play. How do you feel about that?'" McCoy-Splatt told the Jamaica Observer. "I was just over the moon and wanted to go, and told them, 'Yeah, just let them know that I'm gonna come down.'"
But that decision was also aided by Reggae Boy Bobby Decordova-Reid, a regular in Fulham's senior team in the English Premier League.
"Before I even came here, I spoke to him on how it's like," McCoy-Splatt said. "He always gave me positive feedback so that made me want to come here even more.
"He said it's just an enjoyable experience and anything you might not like, you just have to work with it. It [the environment] is not gonna be the same as when you're back in England, but just keep your head up."
But McCoy-Splatt describes that debut as being amazing.
"Despite the result, it's always good to come on and get that experience," he said. "For me, it was just something to build on, obviously, it's new teammates, young players, it was just something different. So, I can't really focus too much on the result. It's more of a thing that you just take and learn from that, and you just go again."
McCoy-Splatt says he is also wholly grateful to Hallgrímsson for giving him the opportunity, and thanks him for having faith in him at such a young age.
Although McCoy-Splatt was not named in the squad to face Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League this Sunday, Hallgrímsson said he and other young debutants from the previous squad will not be forgotten, as he has long-term plans for a number of them.
Given the depth Jamaica has in centre midfield in Ravel Morrison, Kevon Lambert, Devon Williams, Daniel Johnson, and Anthony Grant, McCoy-Splatt will have to bide his time. His technique on the ball, and a game modelled on that of his childhood hero Yaya Toure, formerly of the Ivory Coast and Manchester City, means he is likely to offer up regular performances to keep him in the minds of the national selectors as they prepare for the World Cup qualifying campaign.
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