Mason Greenwood and Kalvin Phillips, both boasting Jamaican heritage, have been selected by England to tackle next month’s UEFA Nations League fixtures against Iceland (5 September) and Denmark (8 September).
Although interest was recently expressed by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the duo have decided to turn their back on Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz following showdown talks with England head coach Gareth Southgate.
Greenwood (Manchester United), Mason Holgate (Everton), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal) and Phillips (Leeds United) are all believed to have spoken with Southgate about snubbing the Boyz to represent England – their respective place of birth. Greenwood, the Bradford-born 18-year-old forward has already played for England at U21 level and scored 10 English Premier League (EPL) goals in 31 appearances last season.
Phillips, the Leeds-born 24-year-old defensive midfielder, was widely considered to be the best player in the English Championship last season. He admitted to Sky Sports that he was called-up to the 24-player squad.
Phillips explained: “I didn’t expect to get into the England squad this early into the season, even before the season started, but maybe I got lucky.”
Holgate, the Doncaster-born 23-year-old, has been particularly impressive at centre back since Carlo Anceloti took over the helm at Everton last December. Maitland-Niles, the London-born 22-year-old versatile midfielder, is on the radar of a clutch of top tier German clubs.
With a total of 124 players born to Jamaican parents in England or who have Jamaican grandparents, competing in the English top four divisions there is always going to be some talent to unearth for the Boyz. However, England often likes to steam in and persuade leading players that they should consider wearing the White Lions shirt rather than pull on a Jamaica golden jersey.
England has a recent bad reputation of pleading with players who have international choices to commit to their country of birth, only to then discard them after one or two matches. However, a proposed new rule by FIFA could favour the Boyz as those who have not represented another nation for three years could be permitted to play for another country. The new rule proposal will be mooted at the FIFA Congress on 18 September.
Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore has often had his hands tied with respect to bringing in overseas players because of the JFF’s finances, which has upset present players – such as recent recruited Leon Bailey – as well as former internationals.
If Whitmore is offered some additional talent to boost his ever-improving squad, then there seems no reason why the Boyz are not competing in their first World Cup finals since their debut in the France ’98 tournament – when Whitmore played a significant role on the pitch.
Jamaica team coach Roy Simpson spoke to Jamaica’s popular TV show TVJ Sports and explained: “Any decision is for each player to make for himself, but if any of the four players do not provide their services to Jamaica then the squad can’t continue to remain Qatar-motivated and can’t continue to carry the hopes of Jamaican people.”
The Boyz need to be ready to kick-off their campaign to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar and, now the schedule for the qualifying format has been announced by CONCACAF, the addition of quality players is of paramount importance.
Jamaica are due to begin their Qatar 2022 qualifiers next summer, with the JFF busy running their eye over bringing in new faces although have missed out on Greenwood and Phillips.
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