Photo by LeVaughn Flynn
Donovan Ricketts in training on Friday at the UWI Bowl.
LeVaughn Flynn, Staff Reporter
WHILE WAITING on another UK work permit to resume his professional football career in England, first-choice national goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has been keeping in form by working out with the national U-20 team, which is preparing for World Cup qualifiers in July.
Ricketts, who has been in the island since coming for the March 26 friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, was denied re-entry to England. According to the immigration office in Sheffield, Ricketts had not got the necessary stamp in his documentation to meet UK employment laws.
The office was also reluctant to renew his work permit as he was no longer the first-choice goalie at Bradford City after a failed transfer to Queens' Park Rangers left him in limbo. Jamaica's fall in the world rankings to 105th isn't helping matters either.
In the meantime, Ricketts has been giving advice to young custodians Andre Blake of Harbour View and Dennis Taylor of Reno as they vie for a spot on Jamaica's squad.
"They are young and they lack certain techniques so as we go along I just try to show them certain things so they can learn it from an early age," Ricketts said after a practice on Friday afternoon at the UWI Bowl.
As for his fitness, if and when he receives the work permit, Ricketts said he is ready any time.
"I feel good. I've been training for about two weeks now so I'm ready any time," he said.
The first and only time Jamaica featured in an Under-20 World Cup, their goalkeeper, Allien Whittaker, was voted the best custodian of the tournament in Argentina in 2001. The technical staff has some ways to go before the final squad is selected but Blake and Taylor look up to the challenge of not only representing Jamaica but pursuing the lofty precedent set by Whittaker.
"They are well prepared," said Aaron Lawrence, one of the goalkeeper coaches. "They are quality keepers and they have an abundance of talent," he said.
Lawrence added that Ricketts presence was mutually beneficial.
"We brought in Ricketts to help demonstrate some things to them and help push them, and also to keep him in shape as he prepares for the World Cup qualifiers," Lawrence said.
The Under-20 squad is in its fourth week of training and today plays a South Central Confederation Under-20 team at Brancourt in Clarendon. The first stage of qualification for the World Cup will be the Caribbean leg of qualifiers in Cayman. Jamaica will compete in Group B with the hosts, Bermuda and Puerto Rico between July 23-27.
Winners to advance
The winners of each of the five groups along with the four best second-place finishers will advance to the Caribbean second-round qualification which will be composed of three triangular groups in September 2008.
The top team from each triangular group, along with the best second-place team, will progress to the Caribbean final round scheduled for December 2008.
Trinidad and Tobago will host the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship which is tentatively scheduled for January/February 2009. The Under-20 World Cup will be held in the summer of 2009 in Egypt.