By Noel Whelan

8th Oct, 2021 | 5:00pm

Pundit hails 'brilliant' West Ham news after Antonio speaks out

Noel Whelan has praised West Ham star Michail Antonio’s “character and maturity” after he refused a Jamaica call-up to focus on club football.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the 31-year-old’s withdrawal will be a “blessing in disguise”.

As quoted by AP News on Wednesday (October 6th), Antonio confirmed in a statement that he would not be joining up with the Reggae Boyz after consulting West Ham and the Jamaica Football Federation.

The striker made his international debut last month in a 3-0 loss against Panama.

Antonio has been in glittering form this season, scoring five and assisting three in six Premier League games.

He has also been a mainstay in the Europa League for the Hammers, netting once to help them top of Group H.

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Whelan insisted Antonio didn’t “need” to travel to North America, adding that it “makes sense” for him to remain in England over the break.

“No disrespect to Jamaica, but West Ham need him right now,” he told Football Insider‘s Russell Edge.

“It’s probably not a game he needs to be going to, so it’s a blessing in disguise.

“He gets a bit of rest as well; it’s been a frantic start to the season and he’s had a brilliant start personally.

“It does make sense that he has made that decision. It just shows his character and maturity that he’s willing to stay for his footballing and health reasons.”

Antonio misses crucial World Cup qualifiers against the USA, Honduras and Canada.

His rest period will ensure his availability for West Ham’s next league clash against Everton.

In other news, pundit hails West Ham contract “great news”.