Head of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical Committee, Rudolph Speid, said his team lost faith and confidence in Reggae Boyz’s head coach, Theodore Whitmore’s ability to take Jamaica to the World Cup.
He claimed that they recognized from the end of the first round of World Cup qualifiers, that the Reggae Boyz was facing an uphill task to make it to Qatar for next year’s World Cup Finals.
Speaking on a youtube.com platform, Sports Down The Middle, Speid admitted to making the recommendation to fire Whitmore because he could not lead the team to success.
Did the JFF wait too long to boot Whitmore?
Asked by a panelist if the technical committee had waited too long to pull the trigger on Whitmore, Speid was clear they did.
“In hindsight, yes, because it is a numbers game and we did work out what the numbers should be. Since 1994 to come first in this qualification round you have to score at about 2.1 points per game, 1.9 [points] per game for second, and 1.8 [points] for third, and 1.6 [points] to come fourth. We knew all of that and the coach also gave us a figure that he would end at, so it’s not like we weren’t trying to be scientific and doing our thing. We worked out all of those,” admitted Speid, the major shareholder and coach of local National Premier League champions Cavalier Football Club.
“After the first round, we realized that we were in trouble because for us to qualify again we had to score at like two points per game which only one team in CONCACAF has ever done and that was Costa Rica in 1994. Not even Mexico has ever done it before, so we definitely knew we were in trouble. But our committee thought we should give it more time because of some of the obvious reasons. It just never happened and we had another meeting and we made the decision,” Speid added.
Reggae Boyz slow start
The Reggae Boyz got off to a slow start, narrowly losing away to Mexico 2-1 in the closing stages when a draw seemly likely with just a few minutes to go.
They then produced a shambolic display at home to lose 3-0 to Panama, before earning a point on a 1-1 draw away to Costa Rica. In that match, they created numerous chances to win that game but ended with just one point from a possible nine.
In the second round of games, the team performed better, losing 2-0 to the US, before earning a 0-0 draw at home to Canada, then defeating Honduras 2-0 away to gather four points from nine.
In the third round of two games, the team gave up another late goal in a 1-1 result away to El Salvador, then were unfortunate to end with just a draw with the US at home 1-1. Against the USA, they missed an easy chance and then suffered further agony when the referee waved off what looked a legitimate goal by Damion Lowe late on. It was another two points from six games for a grand total of seven from 24.
Whitmore’s failing grade
The technical committee thought that was a failing grade under any circumstances.
“We believe that at this particular point in time seven [points] from 24 is bad any way you look at it, upside down, round the corner, round the back, but the truth is we are not full of ego, we leave it to the executive committee [of the JFF]. They are the ones who ratify or decide on any recommendations we make. They are the ones who put it forward. Sometimes it goes to the board, sometimes an executive committee, sometimes the recommendation can be handled by the general secretary and that’s how we work. So we finished our work, [and] by leakage everybody knows what our vote was.”
“It is not our legacy now, it is somebody else, we just leave it there and move on to do other work. How long they [JFF] want to take is fine, if they don’t want to do it, we [are] still fine. We just move on and continue the work,” Speid added.
His committee voted five to two to have Whitmore removed from the post of head coach, a day after the November 16 game against the US at Kingston’s National Stadium.
The recommendation is with the JFF but it has yet to take a decision more than two weeks later.
Reggae Boyz plan for the World Cup
Speid said his body, made up of seven, had asked Whitmore for his plan to prepare the team for the World Cup qualifiers from 2019 and his plan included practice games and the Gold Cup tournament.
He said those plans also included finalizing contractual agreements with the players which were eventually done and it represented a part of the cost of the plan.
The plan included two friendly games away to Saudi Arabia, one against the US in Austria, and three games in Japan, one of which fell through. There was also a 10-day training camp prior to the start of the Gold Cup tournament in the US, where the Boyz played about five or six games in nearly three weeks.
“We thought that was enough games leading up to the World Cup qualifiers,” stated Speid. “Now it is up to the coach to gel the team between all those games because remember the Covid virus dealt us a blow where we didn’t play for about eight months. So we did the best we could from a management point of view and then left it up to him to gel the team with those amount of matches.”
“Remember also he has been the coach since 2016, so everybody knows where the ultimate prize is. It is what you call like cycles in football. You get a four-year cycle, you start building your team from scratch and build it up to peak at that particular point. So to say that the JFF should peak the team I don’t understand that, it’s is not that we chopped and changed the coach from the last cycle.”
Tools given to Whitmore
Speid also made mention of the tools Whitmore was given to make it as smooth and as comfortable for all concerned.
“As it relates to the equipment, by now we are first world and every coach should get that so let me not say it isn’t anything special we have done. We should be first world, we have drones, we have the equipment to massage your legs when you are finished playing, we have 360 cameras when you are training [so] we can assess everything, we have Instat program where we can look at the last 20 games that every player in the world plays. I mean it’s a private jet we fly on nowadays, we don’t fly on commercial flights. It’s a private jet we take to every match, [and] we have people in four-star hotels. We put out all stops to make sure everybody is comfortable and then we did something that is unique, not even Captain Burrell [Horace] did it. We were able to tie down 60 players with contracts. You notice nobody is fighting about money these days? We have contracts with them until the end of 2023 with all the players. That was to make sure the players were available, but as to pick the team we never interfered, we gave him like 70 players and say go ahead, pick anybody you want, pick from this, and if you see anybody else, just tell us who they are and we go and get them to sign the contract and they are eligible to play, so that is what we have done.”
The Reggae Boyz will have six more matches to make the final three automatic qualifiers for a place in Qatar.
Current point standing:
Canada – 16
USA – 15
Mexico – 14
Panama – 14
Costa Rica – 9
Jamaica – 7
El Salvador – 5
Honduras – 3