Canada's County Durham born football coach relishing 'special' World Cup challenge

The County Durham born Head Coach of the Canadian national football team says he's looking forward to having the chance to "do something pretty special" when his side takes part in their first World Cup finals for 36 years.

Canada head to Qatar to take part in November's World Cup after finishing top of the CONCACAF qualifying round.

They will face Croatia, Morocco and Belgium in their opening group games.

On a rare visit to his hometown in the North East, John told ITV Tyne Tees: "Old friends from the North East have reached out, it's been lovely and I know England are spoilt.

"England goes to World Cups. But for Canada, just qualifying feels like we've won the World Cup."

Although he arguably has one of the most stressful jobs in the world, he appears relaxed, and at ease as his interview begins.

"When you leave the North East you always think you've escaped but when you come back you appreciate how warm the people are and how beautiful the place is.

"It is good to be home," John says as he takes in the views across Consett.

From Consett to Canada

John Herdman started coaching at Moorside in Consett, running a Brazilian soccer school. He was spotted and eventually went on to work at both Hartlepool United and Sunderland AFC.

A student of football and keen to progress further in the game, he explored opportunities both in the UK and abroad.

"Three years in the North East, you realise that if you haven't played the game at the highest level, at that time, there was no real room for academics.

"I had to move, I had to go overseas to really pursue my career," says John.

John Herdman was Head Coach for the New Zealand women's national football team between 2006 and 2011. Credit: PA

So move he did and John eventually ended up as Head Coach for the New Zealand Women's national football team.

From there he moved to Canada, doing the same job there. After a number of successful years as Canada Women's national soccer team Head Coach, he was appointed Head Coach of the men's team in 2018.

In leading Canada to qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, John became the first manager to have successfully led both the national women's and men's teams to qualify for a World Cup.

Sitting in the sunshine in County Durham, John reveals that the managers who have inspired him to the success he's enjoyed in his career so far are Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan.

Both former Newcastle United managers, both at one stage managing the team that John was brought up supporting.

When he steps out on the touchline at the World Cup in Qatar, he admits he's relishing joining a very small club of North East football coaches to have managed at a World Cup.

"I think there's only two other North Easterners to have managed at a World Cup. Jack Charlton and Sir Bobby Robson led teams out at World Cups.

"It's not England, but it's as close to England with Canada, I'm sure," John says smiling.

"We've got nothing to fear. We can enjoy it to some degree without being naive, we get a chance to do something pretty special and we have that mentality of being able to play without the pressure that I think other teams have to feel," he adds.

"I don't think there is pressure on us in Qatar. I've said this to the Canadian players and to the Canadian fans, we haven't been to a World Cup for 36 years so let's enjoy this one."

You suspect John, his players and the Canadian supporters will enjoy their moment in the spotlight at the World Cup. After all, it's been 36 years coming.