Coach underlines importance of national team
Winfried Schäfer said Jamaica's players must embrace the opportunities presented in the national team to make advances at club level.
Schäfer, head coach of Jamaica's senior men's national team, made the comments after it was revealed yesterday that Michael Hector had been awarded a five-year contract by English Premier League champions Chelsea FC.
"You see how important the national team is for the players. Our player, Hector, after the Copa America and the Gold Cup, is going to Chelsea," Schäfer remarked.
"He played against Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. He was out, then returned and played very well against the States, and now Chelsea takes him in and gives him a contract," Schäfer said.
The 23-year-old Reading FC defender first played for Jamaica at the Copa America in June, where the Caribbean champions were invited as a guest participant. The tall centre-half played against Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. Jamaica lost all three matches 1-0.
Just weeks later, Hector also played for Jamaica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. He did not start in the first two games, but came off the bench to replace Jermaine Taylor at the seventh minute of the third group match, against El Salvador. Jamaica won 1-0, and Hector was largely outstanding in respective quarter-final and semi-final wins over Haiti and the United States.
His only blip came in the final, where he made two blunders that led to goals against Mexico, which won 3-1.
"The national team is important when you want to take the next big step," Schäfer said.
"All players have to prepare and must be fit. Gray (Hughan) is now in Finland," he outlined of the former Waterhouse FC utility player, who has secured a contract at VPS Vaasa.
fitness & tactical work
Arnett Gardens' Premier League striker, Andre Clennon, is also now attached to the Finnish club.
"The players have to work in the clubs for very good fitness, for tactical work and then they can go outside (overseas). Kemar Lawrence is the best example. I saw him in the small match first at Harbour View, and he works very hard. Now he's at Red Bulls in New York, and maybe he has a chance to go to England.
"I saw Mattocks play his last match. Watson (Je-Vaughn) plays, Demar Phillips plays," Schäfer continued, noting Jamaican nationals who are now commanding a spot in professional teams.
All the players listed, Hector included, are in the island for Friday's crucial first-leg World Cup Qualifying match against Nicaragua. The home-and-away tie, which sees Jamaica travelling for a return match next week Tuesday in Nicaragua, will decide which of the countries advance to the CONCACAF Semi-finals (group stage) elimination series for the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.