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Jamaica names shaken up squad amid rift with JFF

Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd
Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Theodore Whitmore, the Jamaica head coach, has been handed a tough ask for the exhibition match against the USA in Austria on 25 March with a heavily defensive and depleted squad.

The ongoing issue between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and regular players over contracts and money, which came to light just ahead of November’s Saudi Arabia double-header, is seemingly the cause for so many regular faces being absent.

A 19-man squad was announced today (17 March), although shortly after relative newcomer Ravel Morrison withdrew. It is rumoured that the midfielder, who has no club, is in full support of his compatriots so is taking a stand.

Theodore Whitmore

Although Whitmore is notoriously defensive even he surely must be scratching his head at a squad that boasts three goalkeepers, just a trio of midfielders and three forwards. Nine defenders in a confirmed squad of 18 does appear to be top heavy.

Skipper and goalkeeper Andre Blake is the key player to be omitted although vice-captain Damion Lowe was more of a surprise absence, as the Egyptian-based defender had been called up by the JFF along with his club team-mate Romario Williams. Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey is the big name missing, but not a great shock given that it there was a lengthy battle with the JFF before he was selected for long overdue international duty.

Numerous regular members of the national squad have refused to sign contracts with the JFF, and been locked in tense negotiations. This resulted in a widening of the net to potentially bring in new players, mainly from England, before the all-important CONCACAF Gold Cup in July and having to tackle the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in August and September.

The JFF already had problems before their hastily-arranged match against the United States at the purpose-built Stadion Wiener Neustadt, home to the club SC Wiener Neustadt.

They were forced to cancel their elite training camp, which lasted just 24 hours at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence in Kingston, as their squad members needed to visit the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC to process their visas.
The squad sees six English-born and based players who could make their debut for the Boyz, which comprises left back Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers), versatile defender Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), centre back Liam Moore (Reading), defender Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic), as well as strikers Andre Gray (Watford) and Ethan Pinnock (Brentford).

A pair of players who ply their trade in the island’s top flight of the Jamaican Red Stripe Premier League have also been given their first international call-ups, namely 22-year-old forward Jabari Hylton (UWI) and 31-year-old defender Renaldo Wellington (Montego Bay United).

Whitmore welcomes the return of English defensive duo Michael Hector (Fulham) and former skipper Adrian Mariappa (Bristol Rovers), with Fulham striker Bobby Decordova-Reid omitted as the 28-year-old is nursing an injury.

Kingston-born Omar Holness, a 27-year-old defender, is a British-based player who competes in the second tier at non-league level for Darlington and returns to the squad having played four international appearances.

Hector is part of only a trio in the latest squad who competed in Saudi Arabia, with the Portmore United pair of midfielder Richardo Morris (on loan in Finland with VPS) and striker Chevany Willis (on loan in the US with Bethelem Steel).

The contest, a rematch of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final that Jamaica lost 3-1, takes place next Thursday (midday Jamaican time) inside the 10,000-capacity Stadion Wiener Neustadt that lies south of Vienna.

Whitmore certainly has his work cut out, and it seems that he will have to produce a miracle to earn victory against their pumped up long-term rivals.

Goalkeepers | Jeadine White (Cavalier SC), Kemar Foster (Portmore United), Shaven Paul (Mount Pleasant)

Defenders | Michael Hector (Fulham), Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers), Wesley Harding (Rotherham United), Omar Holness (Darlington), Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City), Liam Moore (Reading), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), Curtis Tilt (Wigan Athletic), Renaldo Wellington (Montego Bay United)

Midfielders | Kevaughn Isaacs (Mount Pleasant), John Luca Levee (Harbour View FC), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United, on loan at VPS),

Strikers | Andre Gray (Watford), Jabari Hylton (UWI), Chavany Willis (Portmore United, on loan at Bethelem Steel)