Oral Tracey | Whitmore's dilemma
With at least one confirmed friendly international against South American outfit Peru confirmed, and the Caribbean Cup and CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments on the immediate horizon, head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore will once again have to show his worth and mettle as a national coach in these crucial weeks of preparation leading into those important assignments
Whitmore, now in his second stint, having to ferret through the entire player pool of eligible players, local-based, England-based, USA-based, and others, his professional mandate will be to select a squad that will get him the best results possible from these crucial assignments.
It is an intricate and delicate process that has been misunderstood and mismanaged at the Reggae Boyz level for the last decade and half. The quagmire of finding the correct balance for the national team over recent years has proven to be the undoing of more prominent and qualified coaches than Whitmore.
The Gold Cup tournament of 2015 was perhaps Jamaica's finest hour over this otherwise barren period when the team made it all the way to the final. That team was by and large made up of seasoned England-based and Major League Soccer players. The misguided thinking in some quarters at the time was that this was Jamaica's best ever team, with our best possible mix of players.
Within weeks of that high, reality struck as the World Cup -qualifying performances got worse. The very same team showed little commitment, quality and class and got battered bruised, and dumped out of contention for a spot in Russia 2018 at the second preliminary hurdle by some very ordinary regional teams. The rhetoric dramatically changed as the Gold Cup performances faded into the shadows of desolation.
The programme was back to square one and back to 'Tappa' Whitmore who we must assume has learnt both from his personal mistakes and from the mistakes of this predecessor Winfried Shafer.
It can no longer be a wild and aimless throwing of the dice in term of team philosophy, team selection, and strategy.
'Tappa' must strategically select the core of the players who will form the pieces to complement each other and collectively best execute his philosophy. He needs to carefully pick the best horses for the courses.
Despite the national 'backlash' against the plethora of England born and based players it would be unwise to throw them all away. A process of sifting through that subset of players could very well result in more selective re-enforcements from England being recruited to help the cause provided they are smartly and strategically selected.
The coach already mentioned his intention to have Michael Hector and Adrian Marriapa back, and I would recommend adding Gareth McCleary to that shortlist. The experience of these players would be invaluable going forward. .
The notorious lack of creativity in the team must also be addressed with alacrity by Whitmore, who ironically is regarded as one of the most effective creative Jamaican players of the modern era, yet he has not been able to unearth another player in that realm.While welcoming the inclusion of veteran Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson in that creative capacity, going forward "Teddy"cannot be the long-term answer to our creativity problems.
In addition to adhering to the basics of a competent goalkeeper, a solid defensive unit, an organised midfield, and a functional strike force, most urgently the coach, in putting the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle together, needs to embark on an urgent search for the next 'Tappa' Whitmore.