Ex-Premier League defender eyes Hollywood ending as Guyana coach

Michael Johnson admits Hollywood script writers may be interested if he is successful getting Guyana to the World Cup.

Former Premier League defender Johnson has taken on a monumental challenge in his first managerial job as Guyana coach.

But UK-based Johnson, who also works for Derby, is relishing the new role with the Golden Jaguars, who are ranked nearly 200th in the world.

The country of just 800,000 is situated between Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname in South America but belongs to Concacaf.

Johnson’s opening game in charge is on Thursday against Barbados in their first qualifier for the new Concacaf Nations League.

But the ultimate aims are to reach the 2026 World Cup, break the FIFA top 100 rankings and make an inaugural appearance at a Concacaf Gold Cup.

Guyana’s current ranking of 182 sees them either side of Cuba and Bhutan and two places ahead of Malta, who have not won a competitive game since 2013. The minnows did not even play a game between November 2012 and September 2014.

But funding has improved under latest football president Wayne Forde and the country is hoping for a boost from the discovery of oil reserves off the coast.

Now ex-Reggae Boyz international Johnson, 45, could yet end up inspiring a similar movie to ‘Cool Runnings’ about four Jamaican bobsleighers’ dream of competing in the Winter Olympics.

“It has been spoken about as potential for media coming on board to film,” said Johnson, who penned a three-year deal in June as Guyana’s senior men’s head coach.

“The main goal is to qualify for the Gold Cup and make the Fifa top 100 and then the 2026 World Cup is the one everybody is really looking at.

"There has been interest filming now to see and feel like what it looks like compared to when we hopefully qualify for the Gold Cup and then chase down the 2022 and 2026 World Cup.

“It is not about money because if anyone thinks I am going to retire from the role eventually then you have to think again.

“But I looked at it and thought it is a great opportunity – with the blessing of my club Derby , who have been pivotal.”

Rams ambassador Johnson landed the post ahead of 200 other applicants after being recommended by ex-Blackburn ace Jason Roberts, director of development at Concacaf.

Johnson has since been to Guyana twice and held a training camp in Brazil last month for the squad. Guyana’s limited pool of talent has seen them select players from English non-league clubs as well as the third tier in Canada.

Now Johnson has had just three days this week to prepare his squad for Thursday’s first game at Providence Stadium, the country’s cricket ground.

He admitted: “It is a miles away from the Premier League as the country is in the early stages of trying to develop as opposed to the Premier League which is where everyone wants to get to and is the Holy Grail.

“But it has taught me the world is a big place and if you are prepared to travel, instead of just getting stuck down in the UK, then you can get opportunities.”

Johnson, who played for Derby and Birmingham in the top-flight, has been tasked with developing football in the entire country.

He is trying to ‘up skill’ both players and coaches and promote more opportunities in football to the nation’s population.

Johnson explained: “The challenge and joy is you are building the hopes and dreams of a nation.

“You try to build an infrastructure and give hope to youngsters and build their dreams and aspirations to get to a place they never thought imaginable.

“The infrastructure is not as solid as it is in England so there is work going on behind the scenes to try and up skill not only the men’s senior team but also the youth team and grass roots and coach education.

“All the learning and courses I have been doing over the last few years will contribute to hopefully developing the nation.

“Even when we play our game on Thursday , on the Friday I will be doing coach education. There is learning to take place as well as trying to get results.

“What we would take for granted is something that is ground-breaking in Guyana. For instance heart rate monitors have been really been beneficial to gauge the players.”

Guyana can expect record readings if they do achieve their unlikely dream of a spot at the 2026 World Cup.

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