Will Dawkins share Alvas Powell's fate?
The Reggae Boyz have managed to keep themselves in contention for the final round of six in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers with a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Haiti on Tuesday. One win and one loss after two games is not ideal, but it could have been worse.
I was in the National Stadium last Friday when they put in that uninspiring performance against Panama. It was like the team was dragged out of bed at gunpoint and told to play. A contractual dispute the night before apparently didn't help, and one wonders why we have these perennial money rows between the Boyz and the Jamaica Football Federation.
Those who blame the latest rounds of money-related issues on the overseas-based players have very short memories. It's well documented that the much-vaunted 1998 team at the World Cup in France also had their run-ins with the federation. Only a few years ago, at the Caribbean tournament, the players were prepared to walk away if their demands weren't met, prompting Captain Horace Burrell to fork over money in record time, and then make that famous statement that he was prepared to "bow" for his country not to be embarrassed.
That squad, in 2010, comprised predominantly Jamaica-born players. The players who demanded the full tournament fee at the Gold Cup also included those who were born and bred here. I didn't hear one 'yardie' not insisting on his pound of flesh. So to blame the overseas-born players is unfair.
If the money stand-off with the JFF caused the Boyz to play so poorly Friday night against Panama, everyone is culpable. No one, Jamaica born or not, did anything special in that game.
Some serious questions must now be asked. Giles Barnes and Rodolph Austin couldn't play in Haiti because they were not comfortable playing on Astro Turf. Why on earth would a player travel from Jamaica to Haiti and then declare that he won't play on the Astro Turf? Wasn't it known where the game would have been played? And if so, why bring two players merely for the ride? Wouldn't it make far more sense to bring two other players to give the coach more options?
J'cans Losing faith in Austin
In Austin's absence, Michael Hector slipped in quite admirably in that holding midfield position, where I felt from day one that he would be more effective than at centre half. Austin, who was our most important player a year ago, has to know that the Jamaican fans are forming the impression that he is not as committed to the task as before. His physical, robust style of play is not in evidence the way it was a few months ago. The coaching staff may have a decision to make.
One waits to see what will happen to Simon Dawkins. He was the man who scored that breathtaking goal in the dying minutes against Nicaragua to help save the programme. After that goal, his confidence would have been high and he would have expected to feature prominently in the next game. It remains a mystery why he wasn't used even for one second against Panama. Some of the senior players like Jobi McAnuff and Austin himself were not available for the Nicaragua game, and Dawkins would understand that he couldn't get a game if they came back.
To see Dever Orgill coming from absolutely nowhere to play as an attacking player, while Dawkins languished on the bench, however, was mysterious. Orgill hasn't featured for Jamaica in years. Why was he preferred now ahead of others, including the goalscorer in the game before that Panama clash? Sometimes you wonder if the coaching staff put names on paper and then play a game of eenie-meenie-miney-mo!
What also made little sense is that, with Jamaica 2-0 down, Alvas Powell, who has been exclusively a defender for Jamaica, was brought on in that attacking right-sided role. That must rank as one of the strangest substitutions of all time. One gets the impression that come hell or high water, a way has to be found for Alvas Powell to play.
Dawkins, it's being reported, has walked away disgruntled. The cruel irony is that the man who came on when Dawkins should have, Alvas Powell himself, had done the same thing at the Gold Cup and was welcomed back into the field without skipping a beat. Will Dawkins be given the same treatment, or will he be banished? Somehow, I think the two will suffer different fates.
The Reggae Boyz certainly have the quality to make it to the 2018 World Cup, but they have to iron out issues of money and selection, or else dog a go nyam we supper!
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.