Fri | Dec 9, 2016

FollowTheTrace

Published:Tuesday | February 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Winfried Schafer

The recent announcement of another 22-man local-based Reggae Boyz training squad and the ensuing pronouncement by assistant national senior coach Miguel Coley that the coaching staff needs to look at some more players to determine what they have to offer has once again sent despondent chills running down my spine.

Another snap bout of depression is induced by just thinking of the immediate future of the national senior programme.

I am absolutely flabbergasted by this apparent obsession with the incessant need to "look at players" to determine what they have to offer. Successive Jamaican coaching units have resorted to this seemingly endless and fruitless process of inviting players to the national squad "to look at them".

It is unthinkable that we are about to embark on another round of this useless wild goose chase under the watch of head coach Winfried Sch‰fer.

After an entire four-year stretch of looking at players - foreign and local - under previous coaches Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore and assistant Afredo Montesso, where the constant search for and recycling of players got to such a ridiculous level that the stability, cohesion, and ultimate effectiveness of the team were all unwittingly sacrificed, to the extent where Whitmore never had the same starting eleven for any two games in the entire World Cup campaign. Evidently, that destabilising process seems to have started all over again.

After that Caribbean Cup boost, I took the liberty of assuming that Sch‰fer and his coaching staff had a good idea of what the core of the team would be going forward to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments, and ultimately, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which all kick off later this year. Thus the approach from here on should be more player specific and position specific to the intricate needs of the team.

Sadly, it seems the process of random and thoughtless searches for players will continue at home and abroad, where it appears that every player who pops up with a Jamaican connection is invited to the team regardless of what position he plays or how good he is. There is no evidence of the meticulous targeting of specific types of players to serve the team in specific areas of need.

What obtains, and apparently will continue to obtain, is the situation where if the squad is saturated with left-sided midfielders and six left-sided midfielders who were born in England turn up with Jamaican grandmothers, they are thrown into the team just the same.

Likewise, if six additional left-sided midfielders are simultaneously impressive in the local Premier League, they, too, are summoned to the training squad.

LACK OF VARIETY

It appears that no concentrated search is made for the central defensive midfielder or the creative midfielder that the team actually needs. As a result, the invitees tend to be the same type of players who play the same way, while the areas of actual weakness remain.

I remember vividly a local football coach-turned-pundit telling me some years ago that 50-60 per cent of your technical and tactical problems as a football coach are solved at the point of your player selection. That statement was profound then and is even more profound today.

Mention is often made of the proverbial blueprint for the success for the national senior team, which was crafted by RenÈ Simoes, with the celebrated team that qualified for France '98. For sure, the dynamics of football have changed, but the core concepts remain. Scout and decide on your best players and get them playing together for as long and as often as possible to engender team chemistry, cohesion, and camaraderie. This blueprint must have got lost in the rubble of time.

What we have in place is not a search for the right pieces of the puzzle, but with every national squad that is selected, we seem to acquire a brand-new puzzle.