The coach of the national football team has always believed that Canada belongs in the World Cup, the players now do too

John Herdman believed when almost no one else did. Canada will go to the World Cup in 2022.

That was the message at his first camp in charge, in March 2018 in Murcia, Spain.

“He told us the goal in that first meeting – which was to qualify for the World Cup. He said it on the spot,” said Toronto FC quarterback Jonathan Osorio.

“He had a vision long before anyone else did. Nobody is thinking about 2026. We are all focused on the next thing right in front of us – which is the chance to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.”

Some 46 games and 56 months later, Herdman and Canada are in Doha, returning to the men's soccer show for the first time in 36 years.

Osorio is one of nine players from the first side to make the World Cup shortlist. The others are Milan Borjan, Derek Cornelius, Samuel Adekugbe, Atiba Hutchinson, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Liam Millar, Samuel Piette and Cyle Larin.

When Canada made its World Cup debut in Mexico, Herdman was 10 years old and living in Consett outside Newcastle, England.

“I still have moments (where) I pinch myself (like) when we got here in Doha,” said Herdman.

"It's going to be an amazing journey," he added. “I will associate with a world-class coach like (Belgium) Roberto Martinez. And for me that's where I want to be — on that razor's edge and telling the people of Consett, County Durham, that anything is possible.

The son of a steelworker who had to find work in the oil industry in Scotland when the steel mills closed, Herdman was not easy growing up.

An "OK" center midfielder, he went on to play semi-pro football in the Northern League and for his varsity. But knowing a professional career wasn't in the cards, he entered into coaching.

He took a course at 16 and had his own football school at 23.

At university in Leeds, he met a teacher/businessman named Simon Clifford who was fascinated by the Brazilian style of football and opened a Brazilian football school. That appealed to Herdman, the slick player who would later be nicknamed The Black Flash while in training with the Canadian women's team.

Players from Sunderland began sending their children to Herdman football school, which resulted in job offers at Sunderland's academy. Herdman spent three years there, working with young Jordan Henderson, who is now a Liverpool and England star.

Herdman teaches four days a week in the sports science department at the University of Northumbria and goes to the academy in the evenings. His passion was football, but he realized that there was no future for those who did not play at the highest level.

Herdman is thinking about pursuing a PhD, using his experience at Sunderland as research. Then Dr. Paul Potrac, his supervisor at the university, moved to the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Potrac told Herdman about his football job as regional director in New Zealand, selling him at the chance to take over the blank football canvas.

Herdman threw himself into action, coaching all ages while creating a soccer blueprint for the region.

"I can't remember a time when I haven't put in 80-plus hours a week," he once said. "It's my personality, maybe my mental disorder – when I'm in tune with something I like, I go a little crazy about it."

She took the New Zealand under-20 team to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2006 and 2008 and led the senior women to the World Cup in 2007 and 2011.

His last outing at the 2011 World Cup proved to be a turning point. After losses to Japan and England, Football Ferns rallied to score two goals in stoppage time to tie Mexico 2-2.

Herdman said that the game "saved my career".

“The team was right on the verge of death and to get them back for the last game and for us to go 2-0 down, you know you have to fight for their pride, you have to fight for your career, you are in it. -time."

After that World Cup, Canada offered her a job coaching the women's national team with the lure of a World Cup at home which prompted another move around the world.

“Players laugh at him now, but until he became our man we thought of him as an annoying little guy on the sidelines wearing earpieces,” wrote Canada captain Christine Sinclair in her newly released memoir Playing the Long Game.

Herdman repaired the damaged Canadian women's team after finishing last at the 2011 World Cup, leading it to back-to-back Olympic bronze before taking the men's helm.

Sinclair called Herdman “the best coach I've ever had, no doubt about it. He changed lives.”

"He helps you rediscover your passion," he said in an interview. “And within the team he created a culture of unity, where your ego is left at the door. You do this for the team and for each other.

“You spend 10 minutes in the room with him and you will be ready to walk through walls for him. He is just charismatic and passionate about what he has to say. You can really see it in the way the guys are playing - and the guys have been playing. I can't wait to see him on the world stage (in Qatar)."

"I think he's an absolute genius when it comes to coaching and people management and inspiring people," said former Canada goalkeeper Craig Forrest.

“And he worked for it. He works for everything, ”he added. "He was also given nothing in his life."

Herdman's appeal isn't just limited to his players, says Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis.

“Some of the highest profile club coaches in the world like John too,” said Bontis, noting that Herdman is in contact with Canada Soccer through 2026.

After every game or national team camp, Herdman provides detailed reports to the club's coaches and his players' technical staff, from how their players are performing on the pitch to possible recovery issues and things they can work on.

“There have been coaches who have contacted me directly saying 'God have mercy, the reports we got from John when our players went into (Canada) national team duty were better than anything we've seen from any other national coach around. the world,” said Bontis proudly.

Canadian coach Bev Priestman also grew up in Consett, about five or 10 minutes from Herdman. He was 13 years old when he was first coached by Herdman at a Brazilian soccer school. Immediately he helped him.

“What he was like back then is what he is like now – I think intense, passionate. Innovative. (He) does things differently, which is definitely a big part of his success,” he said.

Priestman would follow her to New Zealand and then Canada, before heading out on her own for job training with the English Football Association, returning to take charge of Herdman's Canadian women's team.

Herdman's attention to detail is legendary.

“He is the hardest working person I know. To get all those details right, you have to go the extra mile,” says Priestman.

“I don't think he's really getting any sleep, because there's just not enough time in the day,” added Canadian defender Alistair Johnston: “He's charted everything to a T. It's very impressive. We will be the most prepared team (at the World Cup) so far."

Paul Dolan, the goalkeeper on Canada's 1986 World Cup squad and a former member of Herdman's coaching staff, believed Herdman was superior when it came to closing the gap between his team and the opponent.

Herdman connects with his cast, giving them a roadmap and bringing them together.

"If you do that, that's all you can ask for," said Dolan. "But it gives you a better chance of beating even the best opponents."

Priestman says Herdman's X factor is a complete toolbox.

“John has a lot of skills. He can plan, he can strategic, he can zoom out and then he can go into the details. Many trainers are just trainers on the grass. And I think he is more than that.

Herdman, he said, was a huge influence on his staff as well as his players.

"He dreams big and he pushes you to new limits you didn't know you had," he explains. “Sometimes it is very difficult. But myself, I would not be where I am or would not have won a (Olympic) gold medal without him pushing me in really difficult moments, when sometimes you're like 'Wow.' But actually they pay off. You look and come back and you go 'The reason I can do these things now is because I've been subjected to that kind of pressure and scrutiny.' Because he has very high standards.”

“The investment my wife has put into the relationship and making sure I can do what I do at the level I need to do is incredible. My kids have been to every event. They have experienced it all. I couldn't have done it without them.”

"And they must be there," he said with a laugh. "They have no choice."  This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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