George Marchant > Michail Antonio has become one of the Premier League’s most notorious strikers since his development into the head of the West Ham attack. His unique style of play rakes in admirers from all clubs and fans across the country, including observers from abroad too. One of these offshore enthusiasts are the Jamaica Football Association who are looking to build a team capable of reaching and competing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
News broke in March that Antonio was looking to obtain a Jamaican passport to help initiate the transfer of international eligibility to the Caribbean island from England. Although not much attention has been brought to the matter by the media, it is generally well considered that Antonio’s request will be passed, and he will become available for selection to the ‘Reggae Boyz’.
Jamaica are currently in the process of trying to recruit players they feared to have lost to England representation in their youth. If successful, Jamaica could obtain the services from the likes of Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid, Southampton’s Nathan Redmond, Free Agent Ravel Morrison, Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden, Everton’s Mason Holgate, Norwich’s Max Aarons plus many more talented individuals from England and across Europe. The names in the list of potential acquisitions show a strong squad available to Jamaica’s current head coach, Theodore Whitmore. The prospective squad Jamaica are building is certainly being considered by many to be strong enough to compete for a place in Qatar next year. The thrill of starting a World Cup journey with this vibrant nation and promising squad is obviously catching Antonio’s eye and would spark interest from most players in contention.
In 2016, the then England manager Sam Allardyce called Antonio up to the England team for the first time for a World Cup qualifier against Slovakia. We all know how Allardyce’s England career ended and Antonio perhaps feared he would never be called up again after not making an appearance. Thankfully due to his exclusive talents, Gareth Southgate decided to call up Antonio to feature in some of his first few games as England manager which included a friendly against Germany and a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania. Unfortunately (unsurprisingly now) Antonio pulled out of the squad with injury and has yet to be called up again. In hindsight, plenty of England selection officials and scouts are probably ruing Allardyce’s decision not to play him in the Slovakia game, a game in which he would’ve locked his international representation to England had he played a single second of it.
Questions remain as to what this means to his West Ham career. This is unlikely going to affect his loyalty to the club or desires to play elsewhere but with Antonio’s current injury record looking bleak, can he afford to add another set of fixtures to his schedule each season? The soon to be 31-year old’s hamstrings are hanging on by thread and must be carefully assessed throughout each campaign to avoid persistent periods out of the starting XI.
Ultimately, we must understand that the opportunity to play at a World Cup will be knocking on Antonio’s head for the next 12 months so we shouldn’t be surprised to see his eagerness to get the paperwork and eligibility passed. However, us fans know all too well the pain and loss of our players going on international duty and having to retire two years later. The Dean Ashton experience still leaves a bitter taste in our mouths so our anxiety about Antonio sealing the same fate is only natural especially for a club with only one first team striker on their books.