Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala:
Jamaica's bid to secure the talents of English Premier League (EPL) player Jobi McAnuff has suffered an indefinite setback as both he and Reading FC have anchored the midfielder to club commitments during the Reggae Boyz's current World Cup qualifying campaign, according to one national coach.
Alfredo Montesso said English-born McAnuff informed the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) in writing that he would not be available for the Reggae Boyz's most recent CONCACAF semi-final-round qualifiers, including two games against the United States in September, the October 12 clash against Guatemala and the final Group A fixture against Antigua and Barbuda on October 16.
"Jobi McAnuff sent a letter to the federation asking that he not be involved in international competition for now," the assistant coach explained from Jamaica's team hotel here on Thursday evening.
In August, Montesso said McAnuff had been approached earlier by the JFF about representing Jamaica. The 30-year-old reportedly said then he wanted to delay his international career to help newly promoted Reading FC establish itself in the top flight. McAnuff is the club's captain.
Since then, however, it appears further efforts by Jamaica to bring McAnuff into the national squad have also been unsuccessful. The club's poor EPL record appears the latest reason. Reading FC, where current Reggae Boy Adrian Mariappa plays, are currently third from bottom in the EPL points table.
"His club requested (McAnuff) to stay in England," Montesso said. "He took the decision and we have to respect it."
Despite the disappointment, Montesso said Jamaica has "not closed the door" on the attacking left-sided player. McAnuff is Reading FC's leader in assists with three from six EPL matches.
Montesso said Jamaica also rekindled interest in 27-year-old Darren Pratley, a midfielder with Bolton Wanderers in the League Championship. However, that move stalled due to a "passport issue", according to the assistant coach.
"We just could not wait for that (to be resolved)," Montesso explained.
English-born Pratley was invited to join the Boyz in 2009, when John Barnes was coach. He reportedly qualifies to play for Jamaica through his grandparents.
Montesso, however, underlined the importance of Jamaica providing maximum support for the Boyz currently involved in the qualifying campaign.
"What we have to do is focus on the players we have right now," he said.
The issue of McAnuff and Pratley representing Jamaica will be revisited. But a key element for any player joining the Boyz, Montesso explained, will be how well he blends in. The group, coaches claim, is gelling into a unified force they don't want to jeopardise.
"This is something we have to analyse," Montesso said. "There will be a time to judge. Chemistry is important. Some time we have to pick the best team, not necessarily the best players."
Whether McAnuff and Pratley participate in Jamaica's 2014 World Cup campaign will be known following the October 16 game against Antigua & Barbuda. The top two teams from Group A will advance to the final CONCACAF qualifying round which begins next year. Jamaica are locked in competition with the US and Guatemala for those spots.
See full report on last night's Guatemala vs Jamaica World Cup Qualifier in today's STAR.