Following the sacking last week of Brazilian Rene Simoes, the Jamaican FA has turned its hopes to favourite son John Barnes. The former Liverpool star, capped 79 times for England, but born in Kingston will take over the reins of the struggling national team in November after signing a one-year contract.
''I've been trying to get back into football for many years and it had proved difficult," said Barnes, one of the Caribbean region's most famous footballing exports. ''This was an opportunity for me to get back into football at a coaching level, which I love doing.
''Managing Jamaica is not the same as managing England," added Barnes, who briefly managed Celtic. "But football is football, you've got to motivate your players, you've got to get them organised and to try and win football matches.''
The Jamaicans have started poorly in their qualifying section in the North, Central American and Caribbean zone for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. After three games, the Reggae Boyz are joint-bottom after losses to Honduras and Mexico. The only bright spot so far was a 1-1 draw with Canada in Toronto.
With three games to go, all at home, the Jamaicans are still alive in the hunt for a spot in the region's final ‘hexagonal' qualifying group, it will take a Herculean effort. Honduras are on six points and Mexico have a perfect nine from three games.
With only the top two teams from the three preliminary groups booking their passage to the final round, Jamaican hopes are dimming by the day. But the powers that be in the island's football association are hoping that the appointment of Barnes, who will begin his one-year contract in November, will turn things around.
''When an icon like John Barnes becomes the coach of Jamaica's Reggae Boyz' team, immediately the international spotlight will shine on Jamaica in every single aspect of the sport,'' remarked Jamaica FA president Horace Burrell.
Jamaica's next qualifier is next month at home against Mexico, but Barnes' first game in charge will not come until the final Group B game on 19 November against Canada. Jamaica could well be eliminated from the hunt for South Africa 2010 by then.