Michael Johnson, newly appointed Head-Coach of the Golden Jaguars Senior Team has declared that he is elated to be at the helm of the programme and thinks the target of getting into the top 100 of FIFA’s rankings is possible.
Speaking at the SleepIn Hotel and Casino, on Church Street, during his presentation to the media yesterday, the English born tactician who has inked a three deal with the Guyana Football Federation, said, “Thank you so much for this opportunity. For the president and for Ian [Greenwood] as well. To go through the process and appoint me when you have 200 candidates it’s something that you don’t take lightly. Also want to thank god for the opportunity to come here and do something really influential in this country. I am excited, I can’t wait to get going. I am excited because the vision and direction of what the President and the TD spoke about, the executive committee spoke about, it’s really a project that we are looking to take places.”
Johnson, 44, is a former Jamaica International and English League stalwart following stints with Derby County, Notts County and Birmingham City.
He is presently, the holder of a UEFA Pro-Licence, which is the highest coaching accreditation in that confederation and in the world.
Johnson is also the holder of a League Managers Association Diploma in Football Management, effectively making him the most qualified coach in Guyana’s history.
According to Johnson, “I have seen some of the games already, the team is not in bad nick or bad shape. The opportunity to try and help shape some of the youth, that missing gap way between youth football and then accelerating into the Men’s senior game. The vision imposed on the Men’s senior game to try and break into that top 100. I found out recently that we dropped a few places [Guyana is ranked 182]. It is such an exciting project, what I would bring would be my expertise, my professionalism. I will also be able to engage with the club Derby County playing Championship football in numerous ways.”
He added, “The technology side of the game would be something that would be very interesting and for me to really engage Guyana but also the sport science, the exchange of players, coach education. It is a bigger picture than what happens on a first team match. Make no bones about it, I understand that is where I am going to be judged so it’s an exciting time and one that I am really looking forward to and it’s one that I believe it will be an interesting journey.”
Quizzed if there will be pressure for Guyana to qualify for its first ever Gold Cup Championship in 2019, and if the team will be able to attract foreign talents due to its low ranking, Johnson said, “I played in an environment where pressure been a part of it. Whether its pressure to get to the Premier League, whether its pressure to qualify internationally, I have always thrived with pressure. I also understand there is bigger picture here, it’s a great opportunity to really start to build stuff. It isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s going to take a while to start building and get some of the youth talent through where we want them to be. But it’s also about how do we sell the vision of where we want to go to the Ryan Fredericks’, to other people and players that might be looking at getting on board.”
He declared, “It’s about where are we going with this project, what do we really want, what is achievable and I feel that is the way you entice the players to get on this vehicle because it will be one that I believe can do things. I watched the games against Mexico, Jamaica, the team is no pushover, it’s a good team but just need a little bit of guidance, a little direction and that’s why I am here because I really believe that we can achieve something and I say we because it’s not just me, I involve everybody, it’s a collective. We are going to go places, we have to believe we can do it.”
Johnson stated that the GFF’s youth development vision was a major attraction in applying for the post, adding, “Also the target of getting into the top 100 is also making me really excited about the potential of doing something that is achievable.
If it wasn’t achievable, I would say we have no chance but actually I truly believe in that. The vision and the direction that we want to go is achievable. I believe with the youth talent that we can do something, I believe we can get into the top 100, I believe we can qualify for the Gold Cup. That has attracted me to the role, now is my job to go and attract other members of the potential incoming staff and some of the players.”
Meanwhile, GFF President Wayne Forde said, “The GFF executive committee has undertaken to professionalize its senior men and senior women programmes, and in that process we have reached out and worked as hard as we could over the past couple of months to bring in the right people that we think that can move the programme forward and pursue the goals and objectives and the vision of the executive committee.”
He added, “Coach Mike being here today is the result of an extensive process that saw almost 200 applicants submitting for the job that was advertised. I am very pleased to inform you that we have appointed the person that we believe is best suited for the role and for the challenge that is ahead of us over the next couple of months and years. Coach Mike brings with him a wealth of experience on the field and off the field, there is a level of synergy that we were seeking out when we went ahead and make the appointment.” According to Forde, Johnson’s tenure will extend beyond the realm of the senior programme, as his knowledge and expertise in youth development will be greatly utilized.
Questioned how much money the federation is willing to channel into the men’s programme to aid Johnson’s attempt to achieve his respective objectives, Forde disclosed, “We operate in a tight budget framework, there is only so much funds available for the national programme. Of course our mandate is to develop the total body of football locally. The assurance that I can give to the public and to Coach Michael is that we will do everything possible within our power as an executive committee to ensure that he has the tools to do the job that he was hired to do.”
Similarly, GFF Technical Director Ian Greenwood said, “We are delighted to have someone of Michael Johnson’s caliber into the GFF Technical Department and the GFF Football Family so we want to welcome him into the programme. He is the standout candidate from the 200 people that applied and with his experience as a player, experience as a coach, his background in the game. He has played in the region with Jamaica, his overall experience, clear references coming from the highest level of football in the UK [United Kingdom], we feel he is the perfect candidate for this role in being able to develop and really progress the senior programme.”
He added that Johnson’s background in youth development can serve as the missing link in the progression of talents from the Academy Training Centers (ATC) to the senior team, adding, “Michael will also play a big part in coach development and coach education and also the general infrastructure of football in Guyana.”