Ex-Reggae Boy Stevens Sticks The Boot In Over Jamaica’s World Cup Ambitions

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Errol Stevens, who made five appearances for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, has pragmatically hit out at the sad state of the national football team.

The former Harbour View and Arnett Gardens striker recently claimed in a near half-hour YouTube clip that the Boyz can never reach the FIFA World Cup finals, at least until the technical ability and tactical acumen of young players has been developed.

Veteran Stevens, who played professionally in Vietnam until three years ago, blasted Jamaica’s failed CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign. Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore was given the boot as head coach last December, despite an unbeaten run of four games, with just one World Cup qualifying win in his eight matches at the helm.

Paul Hall was promoted from assistant manager to interim head coach. Since his experimental side were turned over 3-0 last month in Peru, Hall has overseen a trio of World Cup qualifier defeats that saw the Boyz eliminated from the sport’s greatest tournament. Stevens stressed on YouTube that the Jamaican players lack spatial awareness, which is part and parcel of the tactics in today’s modern-day game. He claimed that the Boyz are unable to play out of defence with one and two touches.

  

He explained: “Why cannot we keep possession of the ball? We are not technical enough because we do not train that way.

“We cannot keep possession of the football under pressure from defence to midfield. Nobody is kicking away the football any more. I don’t think we understand [how to keep possession and breaking the high press lines].

“What I learned is that once my team wins possession of the ball then we make the field as big as possible, so that we are better able to keep possession of the ball.”

He pointed out that when the Boyz are in possession of the ball at the back, they tend not to make the field big enough. Instead, they tend to condense the area or find some players moving away from the ball instead of staying to help keep possession.

Stevens proudly said that he learned plenty from coaches in Jamaica, but there was also a lot that he did not know until he started playing overseas.

He added: “I was a part of the set-up from [Winfried] Schäfer, [Alfredo] Montessa, “Tappa” [Whitmore] and I respect all of them – we can learn from each other.

“They have been all over the world, they have coached many teams in many countries, and “Tappa” played in a World Cup [finals] and played in England.”

  

During his clip Stevens admitted that he possessed raw talent when he first went to Thailand. He was way behind his team-mates and other players in the top flight, both tactically and technically.

He said: “I have played in Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. Can I talk about football on a tactical level? Yes, because when I went to Thailand, I had to go to training 45 minutes before training starts, just for my coach to sit with me a do tactical work.”

Stevens insisted that for Jamaica’s standards to improve then more emphasis needs to be placed on developing young players now.

He enthused: “We need to start developing the players in Jamaica to play one and two touches from early because if we do that, sooner or later it will become something that they enjoy.

“We need to create drills and teach the players to play two touches in their half. When I was in Asia, I used to believe that my first touch was good, but it [was] never good at all.

Stevens left Harbour View in 2009 to represent FC Khimki on loan in the Russian Premier, where he played three matches without scoring for the strugglers who were relegated.

He returned to the Jamaica Red Stripe Premier League, scoring seven goals in nine appearances for Arnett Gardens. Stevens then jetted off to Thailand, netting 16 goals in 33 games with Saraburi United FC for the 2013–14 season.

The Kingston-born forward changed countries, joining Haiphon in Vietnam for four seasons with 42 goals bagged from 89 matches and moved to Thanh Hóa FC in 2019.

Stevens disclosed in his clip: “When I was in Thailand and we were playing 11 v 11 in one half, when your team loses the ball you cannot get it back. You run for three or four minutes and cannot get it back, because everybody knows how to move and when to run and when to stay.

  

“Everybody can identify the situation when we have the advantage, when we have two or three players free. The free player knows that he has time on the ball where he can take two touches, and if he needs to take one touch, he knows because of the type of drills we used to do.

“If we in Jamaica are playing 11 vs 11 in one half, we cannot make 10 passes, or we cannot do it consistently.

“So as soon as they press our backline, someone panics and boots the ball long upfield, and that is what the opponents want because it becomes a 50-50 [challenge], and they are already set up to win the second ball.”

But moving ahead, and focusing on the future, Stevens has a message for the JFF if they wish for Jamaica to succeed.

He fumed: “Stop going for these big coaches for World Cup campaigns, because they cannot develop football on the island.

“When they come in, they just have to work with what they have. We need it [development] to be coming from schoolboy level right up, from when they are little we need to be focusing on their technical skills.”

Click here to see Errol Stevens’ YouTube clip about Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz

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