EXCLUSIVE Daniel Johnson column: Gold Cup stint was perfect preparation for Preston North End season

July for me was spent in the United States playing for Jamaica in the Gold Cup and it was a fantastic experience.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 4:45 pm

Normally I would have been here at Preston North End doing pre-season but to get the chance to play in a major international tournament was special.

It was my first experience of a tournament and was lovely to be part of.

The issue building up to the Gold Cup was that I hadn’t played since the start of April because of injury.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Taking on Suriname’s Damil Dankerlui at the Gold Cup with Jamaica (photo: Getty Images)

It was a case of keeping in touch with the JFF and letting them know how I was getting on.

If I was fit, I was going to be in the Jamaica squad, if I wasn’t fit that was something I didn’t try and think about.

Fortunately I was fit and I got picked for the squad.

We met up on July 1 for a training camp in Orlando and had 10 days’ training and preparation.

Then it was straight into the matches which were played every three or four days.

It was a different experience playing against international players and the games had a different feel than league games over here.

The first two games in the group which we won against Suriname and Guadeloupe, we controlled.

Even the third match against Costa Rica, which we lost 2-1, we controlled long spells of it.

A lot of people talk about stats and if you look at the stats from the games, it shows we were in control.

In the quarter-finals we played against the United States who were the hosts.

That was a difficult game because they have some really good players. They managed to take the chance which came their way and win 1-0. The USA went on to win the tournament.

Crowds were allowed for the games – none of them were behind closed doors.

It was a really big crowd for the games against the USA, understandable with them being hosts.

We played that match in Texas and the weather was very hot. It was played at 9pm and fortunately they shut the roof on the stadium which cooled it down.

But the three group games were played in really hot conditions.

In terms of building up my fitness ready for this season, the tournament was brilliant.

I played 90 minutes in the first two games, 85 in the third and then 90 minutes in the quarter-finals. That was a big boost having missed the back end of last season.

When Jamaica were knocked out, my focus was on coming back here and getting ready to start the season. I arrived back a week before.

I had to make sure I was healthy, both physically and mentally, and what took some adapting to was the time difference.

In the States they were six or seven hours behind and being there for a month I got used to that.

Coming back here, I found myself sleeping at random times of the day as my body tried to switch back. I always do try and get plenty of rest but I seemed to sleep a lot.

I’m back in the time zone now, my body has adjusted.

Being away for a month was difficult in the sense that I didn’t see my family.

If it wasn’t for the Covid situation, they would have come out for a game or two but it just wasn’t possible.

It meant a lot of Face Timing to keep in contact.