Whitmore reviews Boyz' rendition as a game of two halves

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

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KOBE, Japan — Despite the common view here that the Reggae Boyz' performance against Serbia is worthy of praise, the team's Head Coach Theodore Whitmore preferred to keep the celebratory champagne on ice .

In the friendly international game against 25th-ranked Serbia at Miki Athletic Stadium on Monday, Jamaica and their European opponents played to a 1-1 draw.

Jamaica, ranked 45, took the lead through Watford FC striker Andre Gray in the 29th minute, but Serbia rallied in the 61st with a goal from substitute Strahinja Pavlovic.

If it was a boxing match, the first round would have unanimously gone to Jamaica, but the second 45 minutes, a split decision.

But the Jamaican tactician was blunt in his summary, sparing no punches.

“I think in the first 45 minutes we were solid and well-organised; we were disciplined, and we created some goal-scoring opportunities. But in the second half, a bit of indiscipline set in,” Whitmore told the Jamaica Observer at the end of the match played without spectators for obvious reasons.

The Jamaica coach, who is trying to finalise his squad for this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup and start to World Cup qualification, said the match did not offer him leverage to make a proper assessment.

He pointed to the lost opportunity for his team to play Japan's senior team plus a shaved-down squad for the current tour as factors which hampered his programme.

“I don't think this game afforded me the chance to feel out the players, as you know the [effect] of the downsizing of the squad,” noted Whitmore, who originally summoned 30 players for the Japan sojourn.

At the proverbial 11th hour, nine players — many of the them team veterans — pulled out, citing a range of reasons for their sudden unavailability.

In a revised squad of 22, three of those players did not make the trip to Japan, which left the coach with 19 players — nine of whom were late arrivals in the East Asian nation. In Monday's game against Serbia, the limited options forced Whitmore to pull a few tricks from the hat.

“As you saw one of our better centre backs [Damion Lowe] had to play in midfield this afternoon [Monday]. He was playing out of his usual position…we asked him to do a job and he came in there and made his presence felt because he put in some tackles inside there, and that was pleasing, but there were times when he was all over the place,” said the coach.

“Despite everything, I still think we are on the right track after one game. I think the players did well and showed a lot of resilience,” Whitmore added.

A few players made their debuts on Monday, most notably Swedish-based winger Blair Turgott and Rotherham United defender Wes Harding.

Whitmore has chosen to reserve judgement on their auditions.

“I certainly do not like to judge players on their first game…I think game after game I will make my assessment. As a former player, when you go into any team you always want to impress in your first game, so I don't want to use this one game to assess,” he asserted.

With everything that has been mitigated against for the ongoing tour, Whitmore saluted the players for going above and beyond obstacles to give of their best.

But he could not resist the opportunity to take a swipe at the administration of the governing Jamaica Football Federation.

“It is always like this [players giving their best] regardless of the situation. My concern is that when these things [off-field issues] happen and you come out and get results like this, we feel like this is the way to go and in the next game the same thing continues.

“But I keep saying that whenever the players go out there, they are always going to give 110 per cent, so what we need to do is fix all these off-the-field issues,” stated Whitmore.

For Saturday's match against Japan's Olympic squad in Nagoya, the France '98 World Cup star says he plans to see other players who did not get their chance on Monday.

“We have a game coming up this Saturday and we want to field as many players as possible, because it makes no sense taking them here and don't use them. Goalkeeper Dillon Barnes [Queens Park Rangers] here and we want to see him, and we want to give him a full 90 minutes.

“Also, we have Luca [Levee] and Kevaughn Isaacs. So, we want to see all of them because in the end we want to be looking at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is not playing against Serbia – the bigger picture is World Cup qualification,” Whitmore concluded.