“I can’t wait to get going”- Golden Jaguars new Head Coach

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By Avenash Ramzan

The team he’s taking charge of dropped 18 spots to 182 in the latest FIFA World Ranking, but even that couldn’t diminish the optimism of new Guyana’s Senior National Men’s football coach, Michael Johnson, who was formally introduced to media operatives on Thursday morning.

On his first visit to the Guyana since taking up the post, Johnson expressed a high level of sanguinity as he embarks on a three-year journey with the Golden Jaguars.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait to get going,” he said. “I’m excited because the vision, the direction of what the President (Wayne Forde) and the TD (Ian Greenwood) spoke about, the Executive Committee spoke about is really a project that we’re looking to take places.”

“We’re going to go places; we have to believe we can do it.”

Top 100

The “target” of getting into the top 100 of the FIFA World Ranking is something Johnson also firmly believes is “achievable.”

“That for me is also making me really excited about the potential of doing something that is achievable. If it wasn’t achievable I would be sitting here saying ‘you got no chance’, but I actually believe in that the vision and direction we want to go it’s achievable,” Johnson posited.

“I believe we can do something with the youth talent, I believe we can get to top 100, I believe we can qualify for the Gold Cup. So that attracted me to the role; now it’s my job to go and attract other members of potentially the incoming staff.”

GFF President Wayne Forde presents Michael Johnson with his Golden Jaguars jersey

Johnson mapped the path to once again breaking into the top 100, after the country achieved its highest ranking of 86 in 2010.

“For me it’s about the process, rather than looking at the result,” he asserted. “For me it’s about making sure the players do the role, do the job; let the time, let the result look after themselves.”

Johnson added, “My role and what I’ve always been about in my coaching and managerial style is making sure my focus is on players. Everything else regarding the result, and of course result is important, qualification is important, but that’s to out there (on the field). But what I can do from now is make sure the players from day one would start getting better and better, and the minute I start focusing on that then I think the achievables (will) start to happen.”

With a UEFA Pro Licence and the League Managers Association Diploma in Football Management, Johnson, a former Jamaican international, is the most qualified national coach in the history of the Golden Jaguars.

In a statement this week, the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) labelled Johnson “the standout candidate” from more than 200 applications received from all over the world.

“All but one of the shortlisted candidates selected by the GFF following a rigorous recruitment process had obtained the UEFA Pro Licence – the highest coaching qualification in global football,” the GFF had said.

Wealth of experience

The 44-year-old British national brings a wealth of professional coaching and playing experience to the role, alongside sparkling recommendations from the English Football Association, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and the English Premier League.

Johnson’s first competitive game in charge will be a home fixture against Barbados in the CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers on September 8, as Guyana seeks to reach its first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in 2019.

Johnson was part of the Jamaican national squad that competed at the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup and boasts a professional playing career spanning two decades in the English Football League Championship and the English Premier League with clubs such as Derby County and Birmingham City.

His coaching career includes successful stints at Cardiff City, Birmingham City and Notts County. He is currently an ambassador for Derby County, and it is expected that this connection will bring benefits for Guyana, including technical development exchanges, player scouting, and the hosting of training camps and international friendlies in England.

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