Johnson urges 'public to get behind team'
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Ryan Johnson is somewhat bothered these days.
Minutes after the final whistle had been blown, bringing to an end Jamaica's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Guatemala inside the National Stadium, the match-winning goalscorer was hardly celebrating his first goal in the qualifying series.
Instead, he is troubled by a perceived lack of support for the Jamaica team.
A paltry 10,000 or so supporters welcomed the team back to 'The Office', many perhaps still holding serious doubt after the Reggae Boyz back-to-back friendly international defeats at the hands of Panama. Add to that the increasingly boisterous critique and concerns about the team's readiness heading into the qualifiers and head coach Theodore Whitmore's approach towards team selection in the build-up.
"The public should really get behind the team because without their support we can't go far and I think we need the country to back us some more," said Johnson, who made the most of a 46th-minute chance to give Jamaica the odd goal in a 2-1 win over the Central Americans.
A lot of criticism
"When I'm in Jamaica, I hear a lot of criticism on how the team is playing and things like that and as a country, we need to back our team and our coach a little more and give us the confidence," Johnson added. "We need the country behind us and it's tough sometimes to deal with all of that. It puts so much extra pressure on the players and we need everyone behind us and that's the message I want to get out."
That "extra pressure" seemed to have had an early impact on the Jamaicans, who looked within themselves and a bit nervous for much of the opening half.
Demar Phillips however, got the Jamaicans on the board just before half-time while Guatemala's Dwight Pezzarossi got a late consolation for the visitors.
Johnson is however not making too many excuses for the team's poor start to the game, but believes that Jamaican fans could take a few notes from others across the region, as the team gets ready to face tougher opponents throughout the campaign.
"It's our job as players to make sure that we are ready when the first whistle is blown, but on a whole, how the country and organisation are criticised, it's not always deserved," Johnson believes. "When you look at fans in other countries like the US and Mexico, they really support their national team and Jamaicans need to do the same. We can beat the USA and we can beat Mexico if we play the type of football that we are capable of playing and if we get the support; it's going to take everybody's help."
Lobbying aside, Johnson was pleased that he was able to once again find the back of the net for Jamaica with his first goal in a World Cup qualifier. The 27-year-old believes this won't be his last, as he looks to play a major role in Jamaica's World Cup pursuit.
"It feels very good (to score), I know I have many more (goals) so I just have to stay humble and healthy and make sure that I try to help my country out as much as I can. I concentrate on contributing whenever the coach calls on me," said Johnson. "I care for my country a lot, we have a great opportunity here with the quality of the players that we have and we can make a big splash in these qualifiers. I really believe in this team."