Whitmore sees 2017 as crucial for Jamaica

Theodore Whitmore (pictured) has led Jamaica to the 2016/17 Caribbean Cup semifinals and a place in next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Leopoldo Smith Murillo/Staffon Images)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Less than two months ago, with a pair of 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup games approaching, Theodore Whitmore was given another opportunity to manage Jamaica.

He delivered, guiding the Reggae Boyz to the third-round, Group 1 title with wins over Guyana (4-2, away) and Suriname (1-0, home), securing advancement to the competition’s semifinals and earning a place in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

It was a confidence-boosting accomplishment for a Jamaica side still feeling the hurt of early elimination from qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  Whitmore, who had three previous spells at the national team helm, believes that the page has been turned.

“The 2018 World Cup Qualifiers were a difficult campaign to take in for all Jamaicans,” the 44-year-old told CONCACAF.com.  “However, 2017 can be a silver lining in a way for us.  Winning the Caribbean Cup and Gold Cup can bring back the optimism about our national team.  This is a big opportunity to hop in FIFA Rankings, get more local players to play overseas and be higher seeded for tournaments.  It truly is a massive year ahead for us.”

Last year, Jamaica reached the Gold Cup final for the first-ever time, ultimately falling 3-1 to Mexico.  That success heightened expectations.

The Reggae Boyz then labored through third-round World Cup qualifiers and posted only win in six games en route to a last-place finish in Group B.  After an incident with a Jamaican media outlet earlier in September, head coach Winfried Schafer’s status was clouded as the Jamaica Football Federation turned to Whitmore.

With a return to the Gold Cup viewed as being essential to the restorative process, Whitmore relied on a roster comprised only of Jamaican-born players for the Caribbean Cup encounters.  That approach paid off handsomely.

“All the players displayed a high level of intensity,” expressed Whitmore.  “It shows that the local players and Jamaican-born players who play overseas can help us get the results we need.  We are not short of talent in this country.  There is an abundance of raw talent.”

Whitmore scored two goals for Jamaica at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and is the only person to lift the Caribbean Cup trophy as a player and a head coach.  His keen eye for talent left him impressed by a pair of local competitors.

"Rosario Harriot and Ewan Grandison,” Whitmore identified.  “I was very pleased with their performances as two local (based) players and this shows that if you guide local players and give them the chance they can offer a lot to the country.”

Although Whitmore’s future has yet to be settled, he would appreciate the opportunity to remain in the post.

“These are a set of players I would love to work with going forward with additional players to add to the core if I am involved,” he finished.