Theodore Whitmore has been given a springboard to strengthen his squad with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president claiming that a handful of British-based players are ready to represent the island.
With the JFF’s focus on reaching next year’s highly lucrative FIFA World Cup finals in the Qatar, they are pulling out all the stops before they tackle the qualifying rounds. Highly prized players from the top two divisions in England as well as Scotland are firmly on the radar of JFF president Michael Ricketts.
Ricketts appeared on Sportsmax TV in Jamaica and said: “Looking at the list I see Andre Gray, I see Demarai Gray, I see Isaac Hayden – who himself called the JFF to express his desire.
“Mason Holgate, Liam Moore – who has actually acquired his Jamaican passport – Nathan Redmond, Kemar Roofe and Ivan Toney. All of these are in the process of acquiring their Jamaican passport.”
Although Redmond has already represented England at senior level, it was a friendly, so he can apply to change allegiance.
Head coach Whitmore will no doubt welcome the chance to bring in fresh faces for the hastily-arranged exhibition match against the USA in Austria on 25 March.
The game will be a rematch of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final, which Jamaica lost 3-1. As it falls on a FIFA fixture date then Whitmore will have his pick of players available, and he can potentially introduce any new faces.
Jamaica, currently FIFA-ranked no.47, have made just one World Cup finals appearance. That was at France 1998, when they relied heavily on a British-based contingent that featured players such as Deon Burton, Robbie Earle and Ricardo Gardner.
West Ham United striker Michail Antonio has, according to Ricketts, officially requested to represent Jamaica at international level having originally turned down the Reggae Boyz in 2016.
The JFF are in a hurry to assist the high-profile players that Ricketts reeled off his tongue, by helping them acquire Jamaican passports.
However, the JFF has seemingly not considered the positions that these potential players mainly embrace are centre back (Holgate and Moore), and striker (Antonio, Gray, Redmond, Roofe and Toney), where the current contingent are not struggling.
Even if all five strikers sign up for the Boyz they may still not get an opportunity as they would have to fight for a starting berth with recent newcomer Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham) and the rest of the forwards that have served so well under Whitmore in recent years.
Yet it will be music to Whitmore’s ears that the JFF have started making overtures to bring in experienced players, especially as the domestic leagues across the Caribbean island have been suspended since March 2020.
POTENTIAL REGGAE BOYZ
Michail Antonio | West Ham United
The burly 30-year-old striker, born in London, only played a handful of matches for non-league Tooting & Mitcham United before Championship outfit Reading signed him in 2008.
But he made just 28 appearances in four seasons, endlessly loaned out, leaving for Sheffield Wednesday where he impressed in his first campaign but was hit by injury for the second season.
A £1.5m (US$2.1m) deal with Nottingham Forest followed in 2014, where he bagged 16 goals to land a £7m contract with West Ham United just 12 months later.
He turned down a 2016 approach from the JFF to represent Jamaica, and was an unused substitute for England in a World Cup qualifier that year. In 2017 he withdrew, because of injury, from the England squad for friendlies against Germany and Lithuania.
Andre Gray | Watford
The 29-year-old striker born in Wolverhampton has represented England C, the national team that comprises non-league players.
A journeyman around the non-league circuit following his release by Shrewsbury Town until he signed for Championship side Brentford Town in 2014. The following season he was snapped up by Burnley for a club record £6m (US$8.4m) deal, but 12 months late Watford swooped.
Issac Hayden | Newcastle
The 25-year-old midfielder, who has represented England at U16, U17, U18, U19, U20 and U21 level, was born in Chelmsford to an English father and a Jamaican mother.
Just two appearances in three seasons with Arsenal came to an end when he penned a five-year deal with Newcastle United in 2016, where he has clocked up over 100 appearances.
Mason Holgate | Everton (on loan at West Bromwich Albion)
The 24-year-old centre back, who has represented England at U20 and U21 level, was born in Doncaster.
After being on loan at West Bromwich Albion, where he played under manager and former Reggae Boy Darren Moore, he returned to Everton but has since gone back to the Birmingham-based club.
Liam Moore | Reading
The 28-year-old centre back, who has represented England at U17, U20 and U21 level, was born in Loughborough.
Five seasons at Leicester City, making 59 appearances, ended when he made his £1.5m (US$2.1m) move to Reading in 2016.
Nathan Redmond | Southampton
The 26-year-old striker/winger is of Irish and Jamaican descent but represents England, having made his debut as a substitute against Germany in 2017 and was in the 27-player provisional squad to tackle the most recent UEFA Nations League finals.
However, as he was only capped in a friendly rather than a competitive match then he is not tied to the English Football Association, so he can apply to represent Jamaica.
Kemar Roofe | Rangers
The 28-year-old striker/winger, born in Walsall, previously turned down an invitation from the JFF to represent the Boyz in July 2019 with a view to tackling the CONCACAF Gold Cup .
The cousin of popstar Jorja Smith signed professional terms with West Bromwich Albion in 2012, but was constantly loaned out until he signed for Oxford United.
He enjoyed a three-year spell with Leeds United followed by a brief stint in Belgium at Anderlecht before joining Rangers on a four-year £4.5m (US$6.3m) deal in August 2020.
Ivan Toney | Brentford
The 24-year-old striker, who signed for his home-town club Northampton Town in 2012, spent three seasons with Newcastle United but made just two appearances as he was loaned out most of the time.
Two prolific seasons with Peterborough United alerted him to Brentford, who paid £5m (US$7m) for his services on a five-year deal in August 2020.
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