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Jamaica prepare for future with overseas-based players

PICTURED: Theodore Whitmore

THEODORE WHITMORE'S Jamaica, now ensconced in the world's top 50, tackle Antigua & Barbuda at Kingston's National Stadium in Sunday's friendly (5pm ko) brimming with confidence.

Head coach Whitmore, who has been monumental in turning around the fortunes of the Reggae Boyz since he returned to the helm, has drafted seven players based overseas to join his up-and-coming squad members.

And Ravel Morrison, a former England U21 ace who was once on the books of Manchester United, will be in attendance on Sunday after expressing his interest in playing for the Boyz.

This is a shot of good news after legendary Jamaica sprinter Usain Bolt declared that 20-year-old midfielder Leon Bailey, a friend of his who is taking the German Bundesliga by storm with Bayer Leverkusan, is too good to play for Jamaica.

The Boyz have a superb record against Antigua & Barbuda, having last tasted defeat to them in 1989, and despatched the islands 3-0 in their Caribbean Cup tie four years ago.

Jamaica are facing Antigua & Barbuda in back-to-back.friendlies, following up Sunday's meeting with a trip to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on March 29.

The games are Jamaica"s preparation phase for their inaugural CONCACAF League of Nations tournament,.with the Boyz set to kick-off their campaign in September and drawn to face minnows - Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Bonaire, El Salvador and Suriname - in qualifying.

Whitmore has been experimenting with his squad for some time, and Sunday's match marks the first time that he has been permitted to bring in a strong contingent from overseas.

His initial 21-strong squad, comprising players who ply their trade on the island, has been boasted by regular faces including distraught defender Damion Lowe.

Lowe, who plays for Start in Norway, is not only desperately trying to be fit for the the friendlies but he is also fuming with Bolt's comments about Bailey.

Lowe explained via Facebook about Bolt: "You’re basically degrading all the work your fellow Jamaicans have put to get us into the top 50, to have only lost 5 games out of 18.

“You should stop seeing Jamaica football as it was in the past, we're rising - and it’s evident with our results and rankings.”

Bailey, who is being monitored by Premier League clubs including Chelsea and Manchester City, continues to controversially reject invitations to make his full international debut due to an on-going feud between his adopted father and agent Craig Butler with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

And another controversial figure, 25-year-old Manchester-born midfielder Morrison, is jetting in from Mexico to take in Sunday's friendly with a view to donning a Jamaica shirt soon.

Morrison is on loan from Italian outfit Lazio at Club Atlas in South America, and recently tweeted: "Making my way to Jamaica. Sorting my documents & papers this week so can be ready for the next games.

"Looking forward to watch the game on Sunday 25th [against Antigua & Barbuda]."

Morrison would add some steel to Whitmore's future line-ups, although the head coach has a plethora of talent already at his disposal including the influential JeVaughn Watson.

With a string of familiar faces in the squad, sensational showstopper Andre Blake is expected to orchestrate matters against Antigua & Barbuda who made hard work of seeing off visiting Bermuda 3-2 on Wednesday evening.

With a lucrative shirt sponsorship recently secured, a new website for showcase the JFF and players pledging their future for the Boyz then exciting times appear to be on the horizon under Whitmore.

Everything appears to be clicking now, with the Antigua & Barbuda games deemed no more than a test run to try out new faces as well as to gain the much-needed confidence of the fans who have been notably absent from matches in recent years.

The belief is back with the Boyz, with Whitmore now playing a pivotal role in charge to make the same sort of impact for Jamaica as he was as an outstanding player during their golden era.

JAMAICA: Shaven Paul (Portmore United),.Damion Hyatt (Arnett Gardens), Amal Knight (UWI FC), Dennis Taylor (Reno),.Ladale Richie (Montego Bay United), Javain Brown (Harbour View). Shawn Lawes (Waterhouse), Ricardo Thomas (Waterhouse), Casseam Priestly (Harbour View), Tevin Shaw (Tivoli Gardens), Fabion McCarthy (UWI FC),.Kaheem Parris (Cavalier),.Alex Marshall (Cavalier), Chevone Marsh (Cavalier), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Maalique Foster (Portmore United), Jamiel Hardware (Boys' Town)

Cordel Benbow (Waterhouse), Fabian Reid (Arnett Gardens),.Marvin Morgan (Arnett Gardens), Jovan East (Portmore United), Damion Lowe (Start, Norway), Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union, USA), Oneil Fisher (DC United, USA, Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls, USA), JeVaughn Watson (Unattached), Romario Williams (Atlanta FC, USA) and Dane Kelly (FC Pune City, India).

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