U-20 squad to be finalised mid-February for Concacaf Championship Qualifiers

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Newly appointed Under-20 Men’s National Team Head Coach Kayode McKinnon will reveal his squad for the Concacaf Under-20 Championship Qualifiers in mid-February.

McKinnon has hit the ground running with an intensive pre-tournament training camp which started on January 21 at the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Training Centre in Providence, East Bank Demerara.

Prior to the McKinnon’s arrival, Assistant Coach Vurlon Mills worked with the local based players focusing on small sided games to observe the players understanding of their respective positions.

Forty-two young players, including several who have moved up from the Under-15 and Under-17 national teams, are focused on impressing McKinnon and the recently appointed Goalkeeping Coach Richard Reynolds.

But only 21 players will be selected to participate in the Concacaf Under-20 Championship Qualifiers scheduled from February 23 to March 2.

The group of players currently in training (Photo: GFF)

Guyana has been placed in Group B alongside El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname, and Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Junior Golden Jaguars inaugural match is set for February 23 against the host nation Antigua and Barbuda at the ABFA Technical Centre in Antigua.

McKinnon shared that the team’s training is advancing positively, providing space for players to adapt to the introduction of new coaching perspectives.

“I understand the talent that we have. So we’re excited to work with them, obviously we’re new coaches to them, we’re new people, there’re new voices. Everything takes a bit of time for people to adapt and to adjust but it’s been exciting so far. Things are moving in the right direction.”

The coaching staff also includes Richard Reynolds, who has been recently appointed as the Goalkeeping Coach and Assistant Coaches Vurlon Mills and John Saunders.

According to McKinnon, there is an ongoing effort to cultivate a good relationship with the players based on trust in an environment where they feel at ease to deliver top performances.

“Once players start becoming much (more) comfortable they begin to show who they really are so we’re cognizant of that. But the exciting part is the relationship we’re building with the players and one of the things we talk about here in this short stint is about trust.”

He added that the coaching team is “trying to identify those players that show firstly the intensity and the ability to execute at a high level in the decision making that is our foundation for success. Yes, we’ve identified some key players and we’re still looking.”

Coach Kayode McKinnon directing his charges at training (Photo: GFF)

There are 27 teams in the tournament. Following the round-robin stage, Guyana has to finish top of Group B to advance to the 2024 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship, joining the six pre-seeded top-ranked nations.

GFF Technical Director Bryan Joseph said the training camp comprises a blend of players based locally and young talents from overseas, adding that the addition of the new coaches has brought a fresh energy to the training programme.

“They’ve injected a fresh perspective and a new energy, and it’s evident that the players are enthusiastic. Their seamless integration into the existing structure is because of their understanding of the game.”

“Our extensive scouting efforts, reaching across Guyana via the Under-15 National Team programme and the Namilco Under-17 League, ensure that the coaches have the opportunity to choose from the finest talent in the country. We are thankful to parents overseas who responded to our invitations, enabling their children to participate in the local training camp.”

To afford the newly appointed coaches an opportunity to assess the players’ gameplay techniques, the youngsters engaged in a match against the reigning KFC Elite League champions, Guyana Defence Force, on January 28 at the Training Centre in Providence.

“This created an ideal setting for players to display their gaming techniques, allowing the coaches to conduct comprehensive evaluations. I was pleased to see the young players giving their all on the pitch against some of our best senior players.”

GFF President Wayne Forde’s administration continues to invest substantially in the junior national team programme, a route for players to secure coveted positions on the Golden Jaguars. The unveiling of the team is scheduled for mid-February. (GFF)

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