Sheffield Wednesday: JJ targets World Cup spot

Called up: Jermaine Johnson faces Panama and Costa Rica
Called up: Jermaine Johnson faces Panama and Costa Rica

WHILE Wednesday players tick over in training, Jermaine Johnson is striving to warm up for the Barnsley clash by playing in World Cup qualifiers for Jamaica.

The Owls forward, a leading contender to replace the injured Michail Antonio, has spent this week working with the 24-man Reggae Boyz squad in Kingston and is challenging for a place against Panama tomorrow.

Jamaica will also take on Central American country Costa Rica in an away qualifier in San Jose on Tuesday.

It is highly likely that he will be involved over the two games as he played in last month’s 0-0 draw with Mexico in the Azteca Stadium - a result that is rated by Jamaica observers as one of the best in the country’s history.

The Owls are hoping that he comes through unscathed - and he will be targeting his first Wednesday start in nine weeks.

The qualifier against Mexico, who included stars such as Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez, brought the 32-year-old Owls forward his first cap in more than two years.

This week Jamaica manager Theo Whitmore fielded in a full-scale practice match the same 11 who started the Mexico game, with Johnson up front alongside Portland Timbers striker Ryan Johnson.

But Whitmore subsequently gave a front-two try-out to Jermaine Beckford, who is loan at Huddersfield from Leicester, and ex-Sheffield United striker Luton Shelton, who plays for Turkish club Karabukspor. They missed the Mexico game owing to injury.

Whitemore said: “We are pleased with the 24 players. We are yet to select the starting 11, so any of the 24 can still make the team. Everyone has been gelling well together and the players have responded well in training. They are also very fit.”

He believes that his team are capable of qualifying for the finals in Brazil next year.

Owls midfield man Rhys McCabe is in the Scotland Under 21 squad to face Luxembourg at St Mirren on Monday in an opening European Championship qualifier.

Wednesday keeper Cameron Dawson is in the England Under 19 squad that will be up against Turkey at Telford today.

Former Owls striker Francis Jeffers is looking to add a bright twilight to his career now that he has joined Accrington Stanley.

The 32-year-old scored two in this week’s 4-0 League Two win against Wimbledon and made way in the 80th minute for James Beattie, Accrington’s player-coach. Beattie, the former Sheffield United striker, trained with Wednesday to keep fit, early this season.

Jeffers’ previous two goals were for Motherwell in the 2010-11 season. Since leaving Hillsborough three years ago he has also played in Australia and Malta.