Orville Higgins | Reggae Boyz’s issues go further than Whitmore
Jamaica will face Panama in the Concacaf Gold Cup quarter-final tomorrow. The team has looked unconvincing so far, but still managed to top a group that included both El Salvador and Honduras. The Reggae Boyz have reached the finals of the last two Gold Cup tournaments and anything less than a semi-final spot now would be seen as a team that has underperformed.
While watching the team in the tournament this year, it dawned on me that over the years our style of play has not gone through any great change. It doesn’t seem to matter who is the coach or which players are on the field, our modus operandi has been virtually identical to what it has been for a decade and a half at least. Over that time, we have been blessed with really good goalkeepers. Andre Blake ensures that we carry on that tradition.
Damion Lowe at the centre half position, Alvas Powell at right back and Kemar ‘Taxi’ Lawrence at left back give us the basis of a reasonably solid and robust defence. The ability of both Powell and Lawrence to also be good going forward mimics what players like Gregory Messam, Fabian Davis and Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner use to do from those wing back positions. Great goalkeeping and sturdy defending have always been our strength. It still is, but the weaknesses that existed for years are still evident.
We seem incapable of stringing more than three passes together. At times there is no fluency.
We appear to be disjointed and disoriented, especially in the attacking third of the field. The team doesn’t appear to have the killer instinct to blow out a team. We appear to be more willing to bounce it around in our own half when opportunities to go forward present themselves. The shooting to goal is often erratic and clumsy.
At times we appear to be too willing to squeeze out narrow wins rather than to set out to destroy a side. Name me a Reggae Boyz squad since the turn of the century and these exact criticisms wouldn’t go amiss.
Theodore Whitmore has come under his fair share of criticism for the way the team has played in the three games so far. While the buck stops with the coach, the truth is that the problems that affect Jamaica’s senior football team are bigger than the senior team coach. Whitmore cannot work miracles. The technical deficiencies at the senior level have to be solved at the youth levels.
The national team has looked ordinary because our Premier League has been ordinary. At times our leagues appear to be more like taekwon do with a ball, rather than a beautiful game of passing, controlling, and shooting. Until we fix that, our national teams will not look any better, and qualifying for FIFA World Cups will be more the exception than the rule.
Issue of consistency
Where I feel Whitmore can improve is in the continuity and consistency of his teams.
He seems to be in a perpetual stage of experimentation. Players like Junior Flemmings, Andre Lewis, and Brian Brown are all at the Gold Cup, when in the recent past they were nowhere near the team. That cannot be ideal.
People have spoken about our lack of a defining football system or philosophy.
That’s all well and good, but until we sort out our technical issues, philosophies are overrated.
You can’t teach a soldier the art of war until he first learns how to load and shoot a gun.
Whatever the result in the Gold Cup, our football still has a long way to go.