Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Not easy being ‘Tappa’ - Former national coaches defend Whitmore selection policies

Published:Friday | May 22, 2020 | 12:00 AMLennox Aldred/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s Peter-Lee Vassell attempts to control the ball during a Concacaf Nations League encounter against Guyana at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Monday, November 18, 2019.

Former national senior men’s football team coach Bradley Stewart has backed Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore after comments made by Jamaica forward Leon Bailey regarding team selection.

Bailey criticised national head coach Whitmore’s frequent squad rotation during an Instagram Live discussion last week, saying he believes it is counterproductive to team chemistry to have frequent new additions to the team.

Since June of last year, when Bailey made his debut for Jamaica, Whitmore has used 34 players between the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League tournaments, which ended in November.

During the Nations League, only defenders Adrian Mariappa and Alvas Powell started all six games for Jamaica, who topped Group C of League B for promotion.

While agreeing that squad rotation should not be done during a competition, Stewart says Whitmore should be given more credit with all the variables taken into consideration.

“I think the coach is limited by not having enough practice opportunities internationally, where he gets a chance to look at and test different players under demanding conditions so he knows which players have the mental capacity to deliver at a high level,” he said.

“It takes time, not just a season but sometimes two to three years, for a player to mature into understanding his role and develop an understanding with his teammates.”

Stewart, who held the top coaching job with the national team back in 1989 before assisting Whitmore in 2009, believes the national programme should already have a core group with at least two or three players in each position with FIFA World Cup qualifiers imminent.

Another former national assistant coach, Miguel Coley, believes squad rotation should be utilised strategically to develop a game model and create chemistry within the national programme.

Coley, who is the assistant coach at Baniyas Club in Abu Dhabi, says it is very difficult to rotate a team and maintain good chemistry even if the national team has a solid programme and has the same game model at all levels.

“National teams have short preparation times,” he said. “Players come in from different teams, from different leagues, and so it’s even more important to maintain a consistent squad, barring injuries and player fatigue.

“As it relates to World Cup qualifiers, every game is a final. You need consistency, and that comes from having a consistent team where players do things automatically by being cohesive. Hence, strategic rotation is important, or else it will be counterproductive.”

Coley, who led Jamaica College to numerous schoolboy football titles, believes it is a coach’s greatest asset to be able to scout players and create the best team promptly.