ENGLISH duo Matthew Briggs and Neil Danns earned their first international caps, playing for Golden Jaguars in Guyana’s 2-0 win over Grenada at the Guyana National Stadium last Sunday. It was both players’ first visit to Guyana, only knowing of the country through their families. For Danns, he’s eligible through his grandfather and Briggs, thanks to his mother.
Ever since landing in Guyana last week, the two players have spoken profoundly of the treatment and reception given by fellow teammates but more importantly, the embrace by the fans.
With Guyana set to face St Vincent and the Grenadines in June, Briggs and Danns have already committed their services to the Golden Jaguars and have said they will be part of the winning formula for the Jamaal Shabazz-coached squad.
Danns, the Bolton Wanderers dapper midfield player, enjoyed a superb night on the pitch, playing a role in both goals scored in the game by Pernell Schultz (18th, 32nd minutes).
“We know that we can get better and the game was just test for us,” Danns said after the game, adding, “We’re all playing together for the first time so hopefully we keep growing and learning about each other’s game and come the World Cup Qualifiers we’ll be even better.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Briggs, who still holds the English Premier League (EPL) record for being the youngest player to feature in the League when he, at age 16 years 65 days, turned out for Fulham, said that for him, the experience was one which will leave a memory to last a life time.
The Colchester United FC (on loan from Millwall FC) defender was the crowd favourite on the pitch, mesmerising the thousands in attendance with resolute defending in the left back position and showing off his attacking skills.
On a play that could have seen him score his first international goal, Briggs was brought down by harsh play and upon getting back to his feet, the crowd all stood and cheered loudly in satisfaction.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Briggs pointed out: “We just have to keep growing and gelling together as a team and encouraging more players overseas to join us so we can take this nation all the way.”
He emphasised that the team has the potential to better their performance in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers where the Golden Jaguars had advanced to play Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador but insisted that it would take a unified effort and the help of some top players overseas.
Shabazz, commenting on the pair’s performance both on and off the pitch, lauded the Englishmen for the level of professionalism shown and also said, “It’s so important what they have brought to the table in terms of helping the younger players; it makes us very confident going forward.”
By Rawle Toney