Despite enduring a failed Copa America campaign, England-born winger Demarai Gray believes Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz displayed some semblance of improvement in the tournament, which has left him excited at the prospects to come in their push for a 2026 FIFA World Cup berth.

Though they lost 0-1 to Mexico, 1-3 to Ecuador, and 0-3 to Venezuela -in what turned out to be Heimir Hallgrimsson's last assignment in charge -Gray pointed to the positives and the lessons learnt, which he is optimistic they will apply under the new Head coach for the remainder of the World Cup qualifying campaign. 

"I think it (Copa America) has shown us that there is more quality out there at international level and no matter the team, there are quality players and quality competition. That goes for us as well. We have quality players; it’s just about putting it together and developing. I’ve said it many times, I think we’re a work in progress. The improvement has been there and I think there’s a lot of improvement to come. Personally, I’m excited," Gray said in a sit down with FIFA.

The Boyz have already registered 1-0 and 3-2 victories over Dominican Republic and Dominica in their two qualifying fixtures to date, with British Virgin Islands and Guatemala next in their line of sight.

However, with the qualifiers on pause until next year, Gray explained that the Concacaf Nations League, which begins in September, and possible friendly encounters will serve in fine tuning their technical and tactical efficiency, as their main target is to secure one of three automatic berths to the global showpiece.

"There’s no better start than two wins and I feel like we just have to continue that in the rest of qualifying. The World Cup is something that we’re eager to reach, so it’s a great start and now we just have to maintain that level of performance," Gray said.

"There are a lot of different games that we have to play, Nations League, friendlies. The World Cup qualifying games are obviously very exciting because we want to get over the line as quickly as possible. But when you play for Jamaica, the fixture or whatever competition you’re playing in, it’s just exciting to be part of the team. At the end of the day, the goal is to win every game we play, so we’ll just take that mentality into each game. When the World Cup qualifiers come around, it will be very exciting for us," he added.

Gray, who joined Jamaica's set up in 2023, has no doubt that the current crop of Reggae Boyz possess enough quality to replicate the country's 1998 qualifying feat.

In fact, the 28-year-old was quick to point out that the Theodore Whitmore-led team that graced the global stage in France back then, has fuelled their aspirations to rise to the occasion.

"It (France 1998 team) is a special team. Sometimes in meetings we’ll watch clips and stuff of that team and now we’re trying to re-create those memories. As I’ve said, it's exciting to be part of that process, and I’m confident that we will be there with the players that we have here now," Gray said with an air of confidence.

"It is a dream for me. To participate in a World Cup, a competition you watch as a kid, I just think that for the boys and the nation it would be massive. I think we deserve it and we are going to work our hardest to get there," he declared.

With five goals and four assists in 14 games so far, Gray, who possesses speed and flair has become an indispensable asset in the Reggae Boyz team along with other heritage players, Michail Antonio, and Bobby Reid, just to name a few.

While speculations are rife that Arsenal winger Reiss Nelson could soon add to the country's bevy of dynamic attacking players, the reality remains that games are played on the pitch and not on paper, something Gray is well aware of.

"There’s always talk of guys potentially joining Jamaica, but what we have in this group is good, too. We have good togetherness here within the group, so whatever players we choose or call up is down to the federation. But what we’ve got in the squad now, I’m happy with it and it’s a great environment to come to work in," Gray noted, as he urged fans and neutrals alike to stick with the team. 

"We just ask for their full support, as they’ve always given the team, given to myself. I’m grateful for it. We just ask that they stay behind us and there are a lot of exciting times ahead," he ended.

Jamaica’s Reggae Boy Bobby Reid says he hoping to use his experience and energy to help Leicester City achieve their targets and possibly enjoy a successful return to the English Premier League (EPL) when the 2024/25 season gets under way in August.

Reid’s declaration came as he shared his excitement about joining the promoted club on a three-year deal, becoming manager Steve Cooper’s first signing ahead of the new campaign.

The 31-year-old’s move to ‘The Foxes’ follows his release from Fulham, where he made over 200 appearances in an almost five-year stint at the west London club.

“Turning up here was a special moment, looking in and seeing the infrastructure. It’s got that wow factor. It feels nice. I landed on Tuesday and now I’m signing so it’s been a quick turnaround, but obviously I’m delighted to be here and I can’t wait to get going,” Reid, who has 33 international caps for Jamaica, shared.

“I had a good chat with the manager, he told me the vision of the club and sold it for me. I spoke to him a few times and he was very clear in what he wanted and what he saw in me. He believes in me and it’s a perfect fit. It’s going to be a very interesting season,” he added.

Reid, in his final offering at Fulham, scored seven goals from 43 appearances in all competitions last season as the Craven Cottage club battled to a 13th-place finish in the league.

The fleet-footed midfielder, declared his readiness to play his part in Leicester City’s charge to possibly repeat their 2015/16 League title winning feat.

Leicester, who won the Championship last season after being relegated from the Premier League the previous year, are set to open their new EPL campaign against Tottenham Hotspur next month.

“I want to bring experience. I’ve got energy, I’d like to say I’m a goalscorer as well and a playmaker. Hopefully I can bring all of those things and make the squad better,” Reid said.

“I pride myself on those types of things and helping the team, whether that is being a leader within the dressing room or being an experienced player for the younger ones and just being an all-round good person. I think that is key to having a good season,” he noted.

“It’s fallen on me with my age but I’ll take that mantle on. I’m looking to get going, meet my team-mates, meet the rest of the staff and keep this club in the Premier League. I’ll give my all for the club – 100 per cent – and hopefully bring some smiles to faces,” Reid, who has had stints with Cardiff City, Bristol City, Cheltenham Town, Oldham Athletic, and Plymouth Argyle, stated.

A 16th minute strike by Shamar Nicholson proved the difference as Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz edged Dominican Republic 1-0 to open their Concacaf World Cup qualifying account on a positive note at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Nicholson’s strike, his 17th international goal and third in World Cup qualifiers, highlighted an unsatisfactory evening for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side, as the defence was at times vulnerable, while the wasteful attacking front was marred by a lack of composure and poor decision-making in the final third. This was much to the disappointment of the sizeable crowd which surprisingly turned out despite the early kickoff and rainfall.

Still, for Hallgrimsson, the most important outcome was securing the three points, which propelled the Boyz to second in Group E on three points, same as leaders Guatemala, who hammered Dominica 6-0 in their opening clash on Wednesday.

“We should have finished it off, but when you are winning 1-0, it's always uncomfortable because then it only needs a corner or a freekick and the ball goes in. So you never kind of feel relaxed, but we should have killed the game off with the chances we got. Apart from that, it (our performance) was below par, and we can do much better than we did today,” Hallgrimsson said in a post-game interview.

“But given a lot of these players are coming back from not playing, it was kind of given that some of them would not be ready for a competitive match right away. We can for sure improve from this performance, but the most important thing is that we got the win and we kept a clean sheet,” he added.

After a cagey start by both teams, the Jamaicans eventually showed some attacking intent in the 12th minute through the fleet-footed Renaldo Cephas, who utilised his pace to good effect to breach Dominican Republic's defence, but he couldn't get on target at that point.

Dominican Republic tried to play their game, through steady and penetrative build ups, and it was one of those attempts to open up in attack that allowed the Jamaicans to break the deadlock on the counter. This, as Cephas won possession on the break and left the last defender in his wake on his way into the 18-yard box where he played a pass across goal to Nicholson, who applied a cool finish beyond custodian Miguel Lloyd.