The winter Olympics kicked off this weekend, with many reminiscing over the famous Disney film Cool Runnings.
The movie told the true story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team which debuted, against the odds, at the 1988 edition of the games.
Although bob-sleighing may still be far from popular on the Caribbean island, football is one of the nation’s favourite sports, along with athletics and cricket.
The ‘Reggae Boyz’ have reached two consecutive Gold Cup finals, losing both despite their limited resources. However, the Jamaican’s could have had a golden generation not so long ago.
Like Ireland, the Jamaicans have benefited from the ‘granny rule’ given the large Jamaican contingent in the United Kingdom. Their recruitment drive has traditionally been quite successful with many of the 1998 World Cup squad England-born but with proud Jamaican heritage.
However, they have struggled to hold on to a number of top class players. John Barnes and Raheem Sterling are two examples, with Newcastle United’s Rolando Aarons another Kingston-born winger who decided to throw his lot in with England.
The Jamaicans have also struggled to tie down granny rule players, with the likes of Danny Rose, Michail Antonio and Troy Deeney publicly turning down their advances.
Leon Bailey, one of the most exciting wingers in Europe, has also been reluctant to commit to the country of his birth with a preference of representing either Belgium or England.
Here we have constructed an extremely strong Jamaican squad made up of players that qualify through the granny rule or who are Jamaica-born but have yet to commit to the island.
Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake starts in goal. The 27-year-old was the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016 and has been attracting interest from Europe.
He is joined in the squad by Chelsea keeper Jamal Blackman, who was on the bench as the Blues won the Champions League in 2013. He is currently on loan at Sheffield United.
England’s two first-choice full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose both have Jamaican grandparents, with Rose apparently very close to switching allegiances before his first England cap in 2016. Premier League champions Ashley Young and Danny Simpson are the two back-ups.
Another Premier League winner, Wes Morgan of Leicester, and Watford’s Adrian Mariappa are two current Jamaican internationals. Their back-up comes in the form of Hull’s Chelsea loanee Michael Hector and former Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom.
This is an extremely attack-minded midfield with highly-rated teenager Reece Oxford in the holding role. His grand-uncle is an ex-Jamaican international.
Another Chelsea loanee, Rueben Loftus-Cheek, takes his place beside the excellent Kingston-born Leon Bailey.
Raheem Sterling features on one wing with Nathan Redmond, who still qualifies for Ireland also, on the other. Highly-rated goalscoring midfielder Daniel Johnson is on the bench. He is another Jamaica-born player yet to feature at full international level.
Former wonderkid Ravel Morrison, who now plays in Mexico with Atlas, and Celtic’s Scott Sinclair also feature on the bench, as does the gifted Michail Antonio. Rolando Aarons, who switched from Jamaica to England, is also in the squad.
Troy Deeney, who had explored the idea of a Northern Ireland call-up, remains eligible for Jamaica. The Watford captain could be joined by fellow Premier League striker Dwight Gayle, who would be an excellent addition to the Reggae Boyz’s set-up.
Jamaica are blessed with a talented striker in DC United’s Darren Maattocks, but could also call upon Andre Gray, Fraizer Campbell and highly-rated Leeds attacker Kemar Roofe.
Jamaica’s golden generation starting XI & extended squad:
Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Jamal Blackman (Chelsea-On loan at Sheffield United
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Danny Simpson (Leicester City)
Wes Morgan (Leicester City)
Adrian Mariappa (Watford)
Andre Wisdom (Derby County)
Michael Hector (Chelsea-On loan at Hull City)
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Reece Oxford (West Ham United-On loan at Borrusia Mochengladbach
Daniel Johnson (Preston North End)
Rueben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea-On loan at Crystal Palace)
Ravel Morrison (Lazio-On loan at Atlas)
Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Scott Sinclair (Celtic)
Rolando Aarons (Newcastle United-On loan at Hellas Verona)
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen)
Michail Antonio (West Ham United)
Troy Deeney (Watford)
Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena