Guyana will not be heading to the CONCACAF Gold Cup just to make up the numbers after a memorable first qualifying campaign under Michael Johnson.
Former Jamaica international Johnson was appointed as head coach in June 2018 and brought about a dramatic upturn in their fortunes.
Guyana had never qualified for a major tournament prior to the ex-Birmingham City and Derby County defender’s arrival, but after three wins from four matches – including a crucial 2-1 victory over Belize – they will be at the 2019 edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Despite their inexperience and being ranked 177 in the world, Johnson is adamant his squad have got ambitions beyond just turning up to enjoy the experience.
“It’s a bit surreal actually, it’s been a real rollercoaster over the last couple of days with emotion, but it’s wonderful,” Johnson told Omnisport. “To achieve what we’ve achieved is fantastic.
The most amazing 48hrs of my football life. 2C men & women & children cry because of this historic moment in @GFF_Inc_ history will be etched in my memory ever. To the children of #Guyana “ I dare you to dream” to think big, because the impossible just might be possible. MAR 23rd pic.twitter.com/Z7sOFLD6BR
— Michael Johnson (@jonsarno) March 25, 2019
“[Now] we’ve got ambitions, and I say we meaning me, the players and my staff as well.
“We’ve sat down together and we’ve spoken about the chances, and we really believe that we could go there [and compete]. I’m not saying we’re going to win it, but we’re not just going to go there and say, ‘Okay, that’s it’.
“We’ll do well, we want to perform well and I think, for me, more than looking at getting to the second round, I think it’s about the performance.
“If we can get the players to perform to a level where we are happy and they take on board what we are trying to implement, then I’ll be delighted, wherever that takes us.”
Johnson – who helped Jamaica reach the 1998 World Cup – hopes to channel the spirit of the Reggae Boyz when Guyana make their debut.
“That [Jamaican success] is definitely a catalyst,” said the coach. “For me, I’m using my experience of that time, because I was one of the Reggae Boyz who came through and obviously you see what can happen from when we qualified for the ’98 World Cup.
“I think what’s now needed is to make sure that we handle the success of the Gold Cup in the right and proper way.
The Golden Jaguars of Guyana have qualified! This is Guyana’s first ever #GoldCup appearance! Fans of the Red, Yellow, and Green, let us know how you’re celebrating! #GoldCup2019 #ThisIsOurs @GFF_Inc_ pic.twitter.com/aNpV8GTM0K
— Gold Cup 2019 (@GoldCup) March 24, 2019
“So, how can that benefit the nation? How can that benefit the infrastructure? How can that benefit coach education? These things that need support, how can this current climate benefit that?”
Johnson has taken his first foray into full-time management with Guyana after struggling to be given a chance in England despite going for numerous interviews.
“It’s nice for someone to actually believe in you and say, ‘Okay, let’s give this guy a shot’ – based on nothing [more] than the credibility of his CV,” he added.
“And once the industry starts to do that, we’ll be in a much better place. And that’s all you can do, go and get your education and time learning from people and then adapting it to your own philosophy going forward.”
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