Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Follow The Trace | Support and pay Tappa

Published:Tuesday | August 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Coach Theodore Whitmore (left) preparing his players for a drill during a Jamaica training session at the University of the West Indies/JFF/Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence earlier this month.

German coach Winfried Schaefer was reportedly being paid US$50,000 per month during his stint as head coach of the national senior football team, which equates to well over J$6,000,000 per month. Judging by his results, Schafer was not a superior coach to the man who replaced him, Theodore 'Tappa'Whitmore. It is arguable that in terms of results, Schaefer was amongst the worst-ever national football coaches for Jamaica, while conversely, Whitmore should be numbered amongst the best-ever national football coaches for Jamaica.

Last week's 2-1 victory over Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago in Port-of-Spain with a totally local-based squad follows on the heels of the impressive run of the Reggae Boyz at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. There, Whitmore matched Sch‰fer's 2015 final appearance by getting back to the Gold Cup championship game after efficient victories over CuraÁao, Canada and regional giants Mexico, before losing by the odd goal in three in the final to host nation USA. This was with a team of all local born and bred players based predominantly in Jamaica and the United States.

The team, and by extension the players, and definitely the coaching staff, have performed way above expectations in all these recent assignments in a context where Whitmore was once again given the 'dirty work' to salvage and rebuild the football programme after another failed World Cup bid.

The plethora of England-born and based players who formed the core of the team over the previous three years, as well as their expensive German tutor were nowhere to be found. Whitmore again willingly grabbed the proverbial basket and went about his mission of carrying the water. The football program was at its lowest ebb in the now perennial performance cycle.

 

Very little expectation

 

Circumstances dictated that a local-based squad be assembled with the medium term goal being to get a functioning core, which would serve as a springboard for the future. Very little, if anything, was realistically expected from this group in those opening phases of the painstaking rebuilding process. To their credit, though, Whitmore and his backroom staff have skilfully and methodically manoeuvred their way through the challenges and the short turnaround, over time, and continue to surprise with these positive results.

Whitmore's improvement, maturity, and growth as a coach have been quite impressive. The grumbles across the local football fraternity were loud and clear when it was announced that the 1998 World Cup hero would be back for a second stint as national coach, especially in light of his previous run in the job and the magnitude of the task facing him as coach, given the delicate state of the overall programme at the time.

Whitmore has responded brilliantly, allowing his results to do the talking, amid the now-fleeting sounds of discontent with his team selection and tactical acumen. Tappa continues to be humble and on point with his simple but profound utterances, constantly emphasising to the public and to his charges that there is still a lot of work to be done.

 

Supremely confident

 

This time around, he seems much more assured and very much his own man; supremely confident in his decisions, his methods and his tactics. Very importantly, Whitmore seems to have the utmost respect of the current crop of players, as reflected in the commitment to the cause that is evident every time they grace the battlefield. It is absolutely clear that Whitmore 'the general' is in charge.

In a matter of weeks, a new Jamaica Football Federation president will be elected. The hope is that one of the first things on the agenda will be to pay not just homage to the growth and current competence of Whitmore, but to PAY the coach as well. Importantly, corporate Jamaica needs to show some love to what is happening.

The financial support is more critical now than ever in order to keep the momentum going at this crucial stage of the process. The lesson must have now been learnt by all the relevant parties that the route of a foreign coach is not necessarily the perfect way to go, especially when there are competent local alternatives available. Let us all get on board and give Whitmore the support he deserves. It might not be to the tune of US$50,000, but then again, if that was what Schafer was being paid, why not?