Story and photos by Calvin Chapman
Guyana’s ‘Golden Jaguars’ will play their first match of the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) tomorrow night at the National Track and Field Center (NTFC), Leonora where they will face Barbados from 19:00hrs.
The CNL is the avenue in which the Golden Jaguars will seek to qualify for their first ever Concacaf Gold Cup and the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) had employed a highly qualified Coach in Michael Johnson to help streamline that aim before an historic ‘Train and Play’ Camp in Brazil last month which was facilitated to help prepare the squad for tomorrow’s clash against the ‘Bajans’.
During the ‘Jags’ training session yesterday morning at the NTFC, Kaieteur Sport had the opportunity to chat with Coach Johnson, some members of his support staff and a few players, ahead of tomorrow’s crucial game.
“We need everybody to be playing to the maximum of their potential, I’ve seen our players in Brazil and I’m actually expecting a wonderful performance by the lads which will do the country proud”, the former Jamaica defender noted on his expectations of what will be the outcome of his first real game in charge of the Golden Jaguars.
He further shared that the Brazil Train and Play Camp has proven to be a major factor: “Because it was an opportunity for the players
to understand me and how I work. Now it’s an easier transaction rather than meeting the team now for the first time and having to now instill my coaching philosophy, so the Brazil camp was really important.”
Come tomorrow, Johnson explained that fans can expect a team with an identity that is fully committed to getting a win while he will encourage his troops to, “Play a brand of football that is exciting and physical.”
Meanwhile, James Keenan, the Sports Scientist attached to Johnson’s support staff, shared with Kaieteur Sport that he is impressed with the current fitness level of the entire squad. Sports science is new to Guyana and Keenan who has over 10 years of experience working with the likes of former English Championship side, Coventry FC, explained that, “In an effort to monitor what the players are doing and how hard they are doing it, one of the things we’ve implemented is the GPS system. That means that we will be able to understand every aspect of the player training including how hard and intensive it is, relative to them.”
Guyana’s and current Captain of Wealdstone FC (sixth tier English club), Samuel Cox, was visibly happy with the makeup of the team and his words sounded no different, “Currently the squad has a feeling of optimism; I think everybody is excited to work with the new regime (coaching staff). I think everyone has a full understanding of what the League of Nations (CNL) brings to us and we are inevitably four games away from qualifying for the Gold Cup for the first time ever. We just need to apply ourselves and we will do well.”
Current top goal scorer of the GFF Elite League, 23-year-old right winger; Delon Lanferman, who has 15 goals from less than 10 games this season, related that he is happy with the opportunity granted to him and he will make the best of it since he wants to remain a
permanent fixture in the national setup. He articulated that unlike many players, who have fallen by the wayside due to indiscipline, he will not follow that path and he intends to stay in line and follow instructions with the aim of achieving his goal of playing football at the highest level.
Custodian of the team, 20-year-old; 6’ 5” Kai Mackenzie-Lyle, who plays for fifth tier English side, Barnet, may certainly be a major factor in Guyana’s CNL opener against Barbados and the towering lad who has been around first team professional football in England for about half a decade, noted that he believes he is experienced enough to have an opportunity with the Golden Jaguars during this potentially historic quest.
A word from the midfield through 26-year-old Canadian-based Brandon Beresford, who in his eighth year after his Golden Jaguars debut, feels that Guyana has their best chance since of qualifying for the Gold Cup, “We have a strong core of players that have been coming back consistently for the last couple years and as long as we continue to grow as a team and with the new coaching staff, I believe we can do some damage tomorrow night.”
Meanwhile, head of the GFF, Wayne Forde, has called on the fans to support their team: “The Golden Jaguars will take its first step
towards the Nation’s historic Gold Cup qualification on Thursday night. It is my honour to invite every man, woman and child to be part of this extraordinary experience, as we roar towards a remarkable journey.”
Tickets to game costs $1000 and are available at the GFF Secretariat, Dadanawa Street, Scetion ‘K’, Campbellville.
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