Hall Brings In Nine New Faces For Reggae Boyz’ Spanish Showdown

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Interim head coach gambles on youth over experience as Jamaica prepare for CONCACAF Nations League

While Russian-based striker Shamar Nicholson misses out on next week’s friendly against Catalonia, Jamaica have given the nod to nine new players. Nicholson has passed the 20-goal mark for Spartak Moscow but, due to travel restrictions in and out of Russia, the Kingston-born 25-year-old was omitted from Paul Hall’s latest squad.

Hall, who remains in the hunt to take over as head coach of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz despite a dismal stint as interim head coach since December, will take charge of the friendly in Giron, Spain. He has called up an array of fresh faces for the clash at the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi on 25 May, which is a warm-up before the CONCACAF Nations League group games kick off.

London-based Hall is the U23 coach at managerless Championship side Queens Park Rangers. He has scoured the Championship and selected four players from the second-tier. Rolando Aarons (Huddersfield Town winger), Jordan Cousins (Wigan Athletic midfielder), Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough United forward) and ex-England youth defender Joel Latibeaudiere (Swansea City) have been called up.

  

Hall has also brought in Arsenal Academy’s Omari Hutchinson, the English-born 18-year-old midfielder, who has yet to compete in the top flight. Goalkeeper Corey Addai, midfielders Kameron Lacey and Oquassa Chong as well as 30-year-old striker Neco Brett complete the newcomers.

Addai and Chong compete in the Danish third tier with Esbjerg fB, while Lacey stars for the University of Charlotte in the NCAA Division 1 in the United States. Veteran Brett also plays in the US, where he represents New Mexico United in the UCL Championship.

This shaken-up squad is to designed to let Hall rue his eye over future talent, rather than rely on the usual array of players who have unfortunately failed to gel as a team.

The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign ended in disaster for the Boyz, with stalwart head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore given the boot and replaced by Hall. Although Hall managed just one victory from his seven matches at the helm, narrowly edging past out-of-sorts Honduras 2-1, he is still in charge.

There were mixed feelings about Hall still being involved with the Boyz from former players and current coach, after Jamaica failed so miserably in trying to reach the lucrative FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.

Yet Hall seems likely to still be the interim head coach for their CONCACAF Nations League showdown against South American minnows Suriname on 4 June and 7 June.

Yet even if Hutchinson does shine against Catalonia, the teenager could be missing against Suriname because he has yet to obtain a Jamaican passport. As Catalonia are not sanctioned by FIFA, and the friendly is outside of the official FIFA window, the absence of Hutchinson’s passport is irrelevant.

  

Three familiar faces – Tyreek Magee, Kaheem Parris and Jamoy Topey – are among those recalled to the squad.

Midfielder Magee has only featured eight times for the Boyz despite competing in the Belgian top flight with Eupen. He joined Eupen on a four-year deal from Harbour View in 2019.

Winger Kaheem Parris, who is on fire with goals galore for Slovenian outfit FC Koper, has played just four internationals. The 22-year-old came down with COVID-19 so missed out on January’s friendly in Peru, and was surprisingly overlooked for the rest of the World Cup qualifiers.

Kingston-born Parris, who moved to the Slovenian top division from Cavalier last July, has scored 10 league goals and bagged two in the Slovenian Football Cup that FC Koper won.

Defender Topey, who is now back in Jamaica with Mount Pleasant following a loan spell in the US from Cavalier, made his one and only appearance for the Boyz three years ago against Costa Rica.

Catalonia, who are not affiliated with either FIFA or UEFA, have an impressive record having chalked up victories over Argentina, Brazil, France and Spain. Jamaica were due to visit for a friendly in March 2021, but that was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sergio Gonzalez, the 45-year-old manager of Catalonia, is also the head coach with La Liga outfit Cadiz. He always has a plethora of players from the Spanish top flight to choose from, so Hall should not underestimate these opponents.

This encounter is also an opportunity for Hall to prove to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) that he is the right man for the permanent role as head coach.

With back-to-back Nations League action against lowly Suriname in early June, when some of the big guns from the UK and US are anticipated to be back, then Hall should be able to chalk up some confidence-boasting victories.

  

Suriname are unlikely to be feared as they have suffered fairly recent defeats to the Boyz, losing in the Nations League and last year’s Gold Cup. But the real test for Hall, should he be in charge, are games against South American heavyweights Uruguay and Mexico.

Before the Boyz host familiar foes Mexico in the Nations League group stages on 14 June, three days beforehand they are set to encounter a mouthwatering friendly against Uruguay. The South American giants, preparing for a shot at winning the 2022 World Cup, will play host to Jamaica at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.

Twice World Cup champions Uruguay last tackled Jamaica at the 2016 COPA America Centenario, where they romped to a 3-0 success. The Boyz have registered just one win in their five meetings, having stunned Uruguay 2-0 at the National Stadium in 2004.

If Hall, a former player for the Boyz, can produce any shocks soon then he will be in the good books with fans, former players, pundits and the JFF. If he can cultivate some noteworthy performances and results from his new few games, then the JFF are extremely likely to install Hall as head coach.

Yet it could be a massive gamble bringing in nine new faces, many inexperienced in the top flight, to a squad of just 20. Only Junior Flemming, who plies his trade in France with Toulouse, has reached double figures for international appearances.

This throw of the dice from Hall could pay dividends, but the JFF will not risk continuously dropping down the world rankings and going backwards. Hall’s failure with the ageing players means that his focus is firmly on the future with young talent.

JAMAICA SQUAD
Goalkeepers | Corey Addai (Esbjerg fB, Denmark), Dillon Barnes (QPR, England)
Defenders | Kenroy Campbell (Cavalier SC, Jamaica), Oquassa Chong (Esbjerg fB, Denmark), Ajeanie Talbott (Harbour View FC, Jamaica), Jamoi Topey (Mount Pleasant, Jamaica), Tarick Ximines (Mount Pleasant, Jamaica), Joel Latibeaudiere (Swansea City, Wales)

Midfielders | Rolando Aarons (Huddersfield Town, England), Jordan Cousins (Wigan Athletic, England), Junior Flemmings (Toulouse, France), Ramone Howell (Waterhouse FC, Jamaica), Omari Hutchinson (Arsenal, England), Kameron Lacey (University of Charlotte, USA), Tyreek Magee (Eupen, Belgium), Kaheem Parris (FC Koper, Slovenia), Ricardo Thomas (Waterhouse FC, Jamaica), Blair Turgott (BK Häcken, Sweden)

Strikers | Neco Brett (New Mexico United, USA), Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough United, England)

JAMAICA’S FIXTURES
May 25 | Catalonia (a) | friendly
4 June | Suriname (a) | Nations League
7 June | Suriname (h)| Nations League
11 June | Uruguay (a) | friendly
14 June | Mexico (h) | Nations League

  

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