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Despite Caribbean Cup, Barnes still has doubters
DESPITE HIS success in capturing the recent Digicel Caribbean Cup, many loyal fans of Jamaica's Reggae Boyz are yet to be convinced in regards to the credentials or even credibility of national coach John Barnes.
While the team lifted the regional title in fairly comfortable fashion, following a 2-0 win over Grenada in the final, the side's general play throughout the tournament, with the exception of a few players, seemed at times to be less than inspiring. In fact, the Boyz even incurred the wrath of the fans, who booed the squad during a 2-0 win over Guadeloupe.
As fans and well-wishers of the national team, we may be running the risk of being too impatient. To be fair, Barnes came into the job under trying circumstances but he also had a vastly superior squad to the rest of the competition for the Caribbean Cup and has, as yet, not been given a true test of his skills as coach.
Tough act to follow
The fact of the matter is that coming in for Theodore Whitmore - a local coach who achieved success where the now-infamous Brazilian technical René Simoes had failed - was always going to be a tough act to follow. Whitmore did not just stumble on to a winning formula but showed a lot of potential to earn a living as a top-class coach.
For example, in his brief stint as interim coach, he recognised the best way to go was with a defensively sturdy team with speedy attacking options.
At home against Mexico, Honduras and Canada, in World Cup qualifying, the Boyz were not simply a reactive team but forced their opponents to be wary of realistic attacking options. While this may sound like a simply issue, I am of the opinion that if that approach had been taken on the road, Jamaica would almost certainly have gained a place in the next round.
We should get a good look at what Barnes has to offer when the national team faces Nigeria in a friendly in England early next month. While nothing will be at stake competition-wise, the game will still be an important one for a side looking to improve its position in the FIFA rankings.
This will be crucial if the Reggae Boyz are to continue exporting players abroad, a major factor producing the kind of talent and options we now have available for the national team.
While Jamaica may not win the game, any result similar to the past couple of away friendlies - 6-0 to England, 4-1 to Ghana and 8-1 to Iran to name a few, will be a clear indication that as far as coaching goes, we could be heading in the wrong direction.