Kyle Lightbourne tested by Covid regulations in naming World Cup squad
Kyle Lightbourne conceded he faced untold challenges in naming the Bermuda squad for the first round of World Cup qualifiers owing to testing Covid-19 regulations.
Ahead of facing regional powerhouse Canada in the group B opener at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, the Bermuda Football Association has announced the 23-man squad, which will also face Aruba at the IMG Academy Complex in Bradenton, Florida, on March 30.
Notably, talisman Nahki Wells has been omitted owing to recent Covid-19 quarantine regulations from the Bureau of the Fifa Council, while Lightbourne also revealed former captain Reggie Lambe missed out after being involved in a bike accident that resulted in the forward requiring stitches.
However, experienced personnel is still present within the squad, both from overseas in the form of goalkeeper Dale Eve and Zeiko Lewis, as well as locally, with captain Danté Leverock being joined by Jaylon Bather, his central-defensive partner for club (Robin Hood) and country, along with seasoned internationals Lejaun Simmons and Cecoy Robinson.
It is that experience that Lightbourne believes will be crucial ahead of facing Canada, who despite the regulations, have been able to name a strong squad that includes talisman Alphonso Davies, of Bayern Munich, and Cardiff City’s Junior Hoilett, who like Wells, plays in the Sky Bet Championship.
“Obviously the team is not quite at full strength. We have had to face so many challenges because of Covid regulations, but it is what it is,” said Lightbourne, whose side will also face Suriname and the Cayman Islands in June.
“We did everything we could and reached out to all the clubs in the hope that everyone might be available, but obviously we had to adhere to all of the protocols in place.
“Nahki was desperate to play, but again we had to adhere to the rules in place. Had the second match against Aruba been played in Bermuda as originally scheduled, Nahki would have been involved in that match.
“Unfortunately, Reggie Lambe was involved in a bike accident and had to have stitches. We did everything we could possible, but unfortunately he wasn’t quite ready.
“However, we still have a core of experience still within the squad and that will be crucial for us; as it has been in the past. Obviously we are under no illusions about the task of facing Canada, but I know what we are capable of.
“Despite the challenges, we have to focus on what we can do and make sure we control the controllable because we have to be fully prepared.
“Canada have been able to name a really strong squad; obviously, they are not taking us lightly.”
While Lightbourne alluded to the obvious void left by the absence of senior players such as Wells and Lambe, he is also spoke of the opportunity that a number of new faces within the squad have to seize their chance.
Among them, Watford’s Kane Crichlow, who is line to make his senior international debut and PHC’s Enrique Russell, who impressed at the training camp in Florida this month, scoring in the 3-0 friendly victory against the Bahamas.
Lightbourne added: “There is also a huge chance for some of the new faces involved like Kane [Crichlow] and Enrique [Russell] to go out and have the opportunity to express themselves.
“Sometimes young players can get stage fright but those two are players who I know have no fear and won’t care about the reputation of the opposition.”
• The Canada match will be broadcast live on OneSoccer. Extended coverage will be given for both matches through on the BFA website, as well as its social-media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Goalkeepers: Dale Eve, Jahquil Hill, Quinaceo Hunt.
Defenders: Eusebio Blankendal, Richard Jones, Azende Furbert, Calon Minors, Jomei Bean-Lindo, London Steede-Jackson, Danté Leverock, Trey Tucker, Jaylon Bather.
Midfielders: Roger Lee, Kane Crichlow, Jahkari Furbert, Knory Scott.
Forwards: Jordan Outerbridge, Enrique Russell, Cecoy Robinson, Zeiko Lewis, Chae Brangman, Lejaun Simmons, Keishon Bean.