Boyz tune up for busy session

(Jamaica Observer) Jamaica had no matches in May but will be pushed hard next month when they play five internationals in 16 days.

The tight schedule includes three friendly matches against Caribbean opponents. On June 3, the Reggae Boyz will host St Vincent and the Grenadines (ranked No.114 by FIFA) at ‘The Office’.

Then they take on Trinidad & Tobago (No 89) in the second leg of a two-match series in Port-of-Spain on June 7, before departing the following day for a meeting with Grenada (No.142) on June 10 in that country. The first game of the Soca Warriors series ended 2-2 in Kingston in late March.

Completing the agenda is the CONCACAF World Cup-qualifying tie against the Bahamas (No.165), on June 15 at the National Stadium, with the second leg three days later at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium, marking a glorious return of international football to the north-west of the island.

President of the Jamaica Football Federation Captain Horace Burrell said the packed timetable is aimed primarily at giving technical director, Brazilian Rene Simoes, a broad view of his stock of players in a competitive environment.

“Not being able to play the number of games we would have liked prior to the World Cup qualifiers, we decided to play as many as we could get on short notice,’ he said.

“One has to remember all so that we have a large contingent of players, most of them are overseas-based, and the coach will now have a good opportunity to see the players at work as a team, so these three games will ensure he (Simoes) and his team get a chance to pick the best 11 for the World Cup qualifiers.’

Burrell, a CONCACAF Executive Committee member, said 18 foreign-based players, most of them from England and other parts of Europe, are expected in the island by May 25, to begin a training camp leading up to the matches. Watford’s Marlon King is sure to feature after his ban was lifted recently.

“Most of our overseas-based players will be available for selection as by then the English leagues will be on a break.’

Burrell, on his second stint as president of the JFF, dismissed suggestions that staging three friendly matches in such quick succession ahead of a crucial World Cup-qualifying tie, could be a risky exercise.

“I don’t see it as a major risk in terms of potential injuries as there are several players to be tried in different positions and this will give us the ideal opportunity to select the best,” he explained.

But high quality games have not been easy to come by as the hard-working Burrell team is being severely hampered by the nation’s humiliating slip in the FIFA World Ranking which showed the Boyz have dropped to an all-time low of 105.

“This is indeed a major challenge for the JFF and we expect the slippage to continue as we would not have played any games in May. However, when the June rankings are released I expect that we would have made a positive move.

Burrell added: ‘I expect that we would start climbing, having played these five games in one month, which is unprecedented for us.’

The charismatic businessman says he is optimistic that the team’s positive move will spawn the interest of stronger opposition, and he expects to have “good news” soon.

“Already we are trying to get stronger opponents for Jamaica, we have made contact with some countries, we are talking, and it’s just a matter of time before we finalise these discussions.’

Meanwhile, Burrell said he is expecting a positive response from the England-based Virgin Atlantic Airways after approaching the carrier at its London headquarters for a concession on airline tickets for England-based players on its UK to Jamaica route.

“I expect that in a matter of days we will hear from them, and I am expecting a favourable response based on our presentation and how it was received by the airline’s representatives.’

King had ban lifted