Whitmore Shuffles Pack To Add More Firepower For Asia Friendlies

Theodore Whitmore has juggled his Jamaica squad for their back-to-back friendlies against hosts Saudi Arabia, bringing in striker Chavany Willis as a last-gasp replacement for experienced defender Adrian Mariappa.

The head coach, who takes his 24-strong squad from Norman Manley International airport in Jamaica to western Asia today (7 November), was forced to add another troop after Mariappa’s late withdrawal.

Free agent Mariappa is in advanced negotiations to join a new club, so is aiming to tie up a deal during the FIFA international break. However, he misses the opportunity to reach a half-century milestone of games for the Reggae Boyz, with 49 matches to his credit since making his debut in 2012.

  

The 34-year-old, having been so callously discarded by Watford in the summer following their relegation from the English Premier League (EPL) and the sudden dismissal of their manager Nigel Pearson, has long been rumoured to be on the radar of Newcastle United.

Willis, on loan from Portmore United at Pennsylvania-based Philadelphia Union II in the USL Championship, has scored once in a trio of appearances for the Boyz since his inaugural call-up last year.

With Whitmore keen to shuffle his pack as the Boyz kick off their preparation for next year’s FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers, he has fresh faces in place to tackle Saudi Arabia at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh on 14 and 17 November respectively although is missing no.1 shotstopper and skipper Andre Blake through injury.

Humble Lions FC keeper Dennis Taylor is one of five island-based players selected for the two friendly internationals. He joins Portmore United’s midfield pair of Ricardo Morris and Lamar Walker, 19-year-old Harbour View FC midfielder Jahshaun Anglin and Arnett Gardens’ striker Kemal Malcolm.

Whitmore has drafted in for the first time both striker Norman Campbell and defender Gregory Leigh as well as recalled the uncapped midfield duo of Daniel Johnson and journeyman Ravel Morrison.

Newcomer Campbell last month made the move from Harbour View FC to join Serbian second division outfit RFK Grafičar Beograd on a one-year loan deal, while British-born Leigh plies his trade at left-back with Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen.

Both Kingston-born Johnson, who plays in the English Football League Championship for Preston North End, and Morrison are attacking midfielders. The pair were previously selected for an enlarged provisional Jamaica squad a few years ago, but failed to make the final cut for the Gold Cup competition. Morrison, born and raised in England, signed last month for Dutch top tier team ADO Den Haag.

  

Two EPL players, Fulham’s duo of defender Michael Hector and hot-shot striker Bobby Decordova-Reid, are in the contingent for Saudia Arabia and join the in-form trio from USL outfit Phoenix Rising FC of defenders Junior Flemmings and Damion Lowe as well as midfielder Kevon Lambert.

Whitmore, heavily criticised in the media over the lacklustre style that he has implemented over the past few years, despite achieving tremendous results, has planned to instil some much-needed attacking firepower into his latest squad. And with his latest set of troops will be given two opportunities to avenge the hefty 5-2 defeat he tasted the last time the Boyz tackled Saudi Arabia three years ago.

Jamaica squad: Jahshaun Anglin (Harbour View FC), Leon Bailey (Bayern Leverkusen, Germany), Norman Campbell (RFK Grafičar Beograd, Serbia), Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham, England), Javon East (Santos, Costa Rica), Oniel Fisher (DC United, USA), Junior Flemmings (Phoenix Rising FC, USA), Michael Hector (Fulham, England), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End, England), Amal Knight (San Diego Loyal, USA), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising FC, USA), Kemar Lawrence (Anderlecht, Belgium), Gregory Leigh (Aberdeen, Scotland), Damion Lowe (Phoenix Rising FC, USA), Kemal Malcolm (Arnett Gardens FC), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska, Sweden), Ricardo Morris (Vaasan Palloseura, Finland), Ravel Morrison (ADO Den Haag, Holland), Shamar Nicholson (R. Charleroi SC, Belgium), Kaheem Parris (NK Krka, Slovenia), Alvas Powell (Inter Miami FC, USA), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions FC), Lamar Walker (Portmore United), Chavany Willis (Philadelphia Union II).

Four Reggae Boyz swarm an Argentine player in the 2015 Copa America tournament

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