By Gregory Bryce
We’re only a few days away from the Jamaica Reggae Boyz being called back into action after a few months of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) recently announced that the national team has arranged two matches against Saudi Arabia come November 14 and November 17.
On Wednesday, the JFF officially announced the 24-man squad that will be traveling to Saudi Arabia to represent the country.
Looking at the lineup, it is clear that a few talents have not been included in the squad, but in fairness, it is still a strong contingent that has been given the nod.
Of the 24 players, five are currently local-based players, which was what I had expected of the team. Players based in Jamaica have been out of competition since the league had been stopped back in March earlier this year. With these players not being able to take part in competitive play, it is understandable why only a few would be invited into the team.
These five players are 19-year-old midfielder Jahshaun Anglin from Harbour View FC, Arnett Gardens’ Kemal Malcolm, Dennis Taylor from Humble Lion and the Portmore United pair of Ricardo Morris and Lamar Walker.
There will be new faces in the lineup come November as the JFF has called up four new players.
Long time Reggae Boyz’ target Ravel Morrison is finally expected to get minutes under his belt after passport and travel issues previously prevented him to do so. The midfielder is expected to bring added creativity to the middle of the park and is a player to watch. Having been capped by England at the U16, U17, U18 and U21 level, Morrison has now made the switch to represent Jamaica at the senior level.
Along with Morrison, former Manchester City youth player Gregory Leigh and Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson are also expected to make their debuts in the upcoming fixtures.
Personally, Johnson has been a player I’ve been mostly anticipating to see in the national set up. After a good show of form last year in the EFL Championship where he finished with 12 goals and 8 assists, Johnson is yet another boost to our midfield.
The last new face to this team is former Jamaica College standout Norman Campbell. The 20-year-old player recently made his debut for his Serbian club, FK Graficar and has now been given the nod to join the senior ranks.
Quite clearly, the player who most eyes will be on, particularly when going forward, will be Leon Bailey. The winger has been on a good run of form in the recent weeks, with four assists in his last five games. He is expected to be one of the top players to watch for in this squad.
Alongside Bailey, Junior Flemmings is another starlet in the lineup. Flemmings, who recently won the USL top goalscorer of the season award, has been scoring nonstop before he was suspended from the league. Flemmings has always shown his eagerness and an eye for goal, and he should be one of the main channels for the Reggae Boyz attacking-wise.
With every selection, there will be players that people will feel should have been called up but weren’t. Whether it was due to personal reasons, club commitment or simply being overlooked, there are some names that I am surprised did not make the list.
Captain Andre Blake is one such name.
Blake’s exclusion from the team is not due to being overlooked, but rather, that the stalwart goalkeeper was recently injured while playing for his club the Philadelphia Union in the MLS. As of now, there is no timeline on how long Blake will be out of action, but he will not be in Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks.
Another person I was surprised that did not get called up was striker Corey Burke. I must admit a bit of bias when it comes to Burke as he is a player that I admire. Burke is a serial goal scorer and I had expected to see his name in the 24-man squad.
In the end, the players being selected should make for an interesting mix as Jamaica begins its preparation for the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
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