Views split on Boyz squad for Argentina friendly
TOMLINSON…it can help our football going forward and that must be the aim.

WHILE there is general consensus that Jamaica's upcoming friendly international against Argentina should have a positive spin-off for the island's football, views are split about the squad make-up for the contest.

On one hand, Miguel Coley, Everton Tomlinson and Carvel Stewart believe it is important to field the best possible team for the Septemer 27 contest scheduled for 7:00 pm at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. On the other hand, however, while Tomlinson agrees with the provisional Reggae Boyz squad boasting the likes of Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and others, Stewart argued that the opportunity should have been handed to talented but less experienced players seeking to make a name for themselves. For Coley, meanwhile, a mixture of both to not only strike a balance, but more importantly, build for the long term, should have been considered, especially to challenge for a spot at the next Fifa World Cup in 2026.

Amidst the varying views, debate rages about the omission of captain and ace goalkeeper Andre Blake for the upcoming encounter.

"Jamaica has quality players and playing against world-class players of Argentina will be a huge test, but also a great opportunity to learn at a high level and to bond with teammates as they prepare for future tournaments and World Cup 2026," Coley told the Jamaica Observer from his base in Qatar.

"I believe the strongest team for the future is important. Hence, a mixture of upcoming talents and players at the professional level who will possibly be core players during the next World Cup qualifiers would have been good," he added.

Coley, who was assistant to Winfried Schaefer when the Boyz tackled Argentina at 2015 Copa America in Chile, recollected the atmosphere and the quality of the South Americans' style of play.

Argentina won that contest 1-0 courtesy of Gonzalo Higuain's 11th-minute strike.

"It still gives me thrills remembering the atmosphere against Argentina. The fast tempo, deciding moments, the quality on showcase and the fans. When Argentina plays, the world stops and watches. Hence, the players get an opportunity to be exposed to clubs all over the world and this is a great way to open doors for themselves," Coley noted, adding that there are also opportunities to be gained by the Michael Ricketts-led administration.

"It will be a test of their [the JFF's] organisation skills, building relationships and alignment and showing to the world that off the field matters are in good hands," the tactician said.

Tomlinson pointed out that the encounter could be used as a springboard to strengthen Jamaica's football programme from a marketing and development perspective; hence, his backing a squad of professionals, who should figure prominently in what's expected to be a star-studded Argentina team.

"I think at this stage we need to use our best players that are available. We can't enter with a young team to gain experience, if we have senior players we should enter with our best team because the worse we should come out of the game with is a draw. We have to put on a good show," Tomlinson, a member of the JFF board of directors, said.

A good performance by the number 62-ranked Boyz against the number four-ranked team, Tomlinson said, would then open doors for more friendlies against top-quality teams, which could then be used to expose other players.

"It [a good performance] will help to market our football product; it will help to ensure that more of our players can get contracts all over the world. So we need to put our best foot forward to not only match Argentina but possibly beat them and then the younger players will be the beneficiaries of that, going forward," he argued.

"Other teams will then recognise us as a quality team and therefore it will help to improve and grow more confidence in the younger players, the Under-20s and even the schoolboys. So it can help our football going forward and that must be the aim," Tomlinson declared.

Meanwhile, Stewart believes the opportunity should have been handed to players seeking to impress scouts for possible professional contracts.

"It does represent a good opportunity for the players because they will rub shoulders with some quality players. I would hope that they give opportunities rather than fill up the squad with players who are already employed and don't need to be seen to be employed.

"They would have already been established and so it would have benefited more of our local people who have the talent, but it's just the exposure and the participation that would assist a number of them," the veteran administrator told the Observer, adding that the contest also holds earning potential for the JFF.

Provisional squad — Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Shamar Nicholson (Spartak Moscow), Andre Gray (Aris), Kaheem Parris (Dynamo-Kyiv), Daniel Johnson (Preston-North End), Bobby Reid (Fulham), Damion Lowe (Inter-Miami), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), Ravel Morrison (DC United), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising), Jonathan Russell (Huddersfield FC), Kevin Stewart (Blackpool), Amari Bell (Luton Town), Gregory Leigh (Ipswich Town), Joel Latibeaudiere (Swansea City), Jamoi Topey Mount (Pleasant), Javain Brown (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Jamal Lowe AFC Bournemouth), Richard King (Cavalier SC), Adrian Mariappa (Macarthur FC), Kemar Foster (GK) Waterhouse FC), Dillon Barnes (GK) QPR), Jahmali Waite (GK) Pittsburgh Riverhounds)

Reserves — Maliek Howell (University of Memphis), Ricardo Thomas (Dunbeholden FC), Demario Phillips (Mount Pleasant), Jourdain Fletcher (Unattached), Corey Burke (Philadelphia Union), Coniah Boyce Clarke (GK) Reading FC)

COLEY...a mixture of talents and players at the professional level who will possibly be core players during the next World Cup qualifiers would have been good
STEWART...It does represent a good opportunity for the players because they will rub shoulders with some quality players (Photos: Observer file)
Sherdon Cowan

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