From belting goals, a Wembley win and a picture at the darts - Bradley Johnson in his own words
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:00 03 April 2020
Bradley Johnson encompassed everything football supporters wish to witness from a player; commitment, energy and loyalty.
From a disheartening relegation under Chris Hughton to the elation of play-off success at Wembley, Johnson covered every blade of grass during his spell as a Canaries player.
Now, he is playing at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship and is in search of play-off glory once more. His City days may be behind him, but the memories live long in his mind.
SIGNING FOR NORWICH:
“All the Leeds fans know what happened at my time there, I wanted to stay but things didn’t work out with the chairman at the time. My contract expired and that alerted other clubs that I could leave for free.
“Other clubs were interested but I’ll be honest with you, the main thing that sold Norwich to me was Paul Lambert. “I remember him calling me and the way he sold the club and him as well was amazing. Everyone I spoke to just couldn’t speak highly enough about him. I could tell that over a 15 to 20-minute conversation we had on the phone. I know I wanted to work for him.
“That’s all it took. A phone call. I was on holiday at the time and when I got back, the first thing I wanted to do was get to Colney, get my medical done and sign.
“During my first chat with him, I asked him ‘are you going to sign anyone else?’ and he said to me ‘you won’t know anyone who I’m going to sign. I’m not going to sign any marquee players who have been there and done it. I want to sign young, hungry players who will work hard to stay in the Premier League’.
“I think you could tell that by who he signed, myself, Anthony Pilkington, Elliott Bennett, all lads who have played in the lower leagues but wanted to play in the Premier League. I think that was our stamping point.
JOEY BARTON INCIDENT:
“I’ve never met him since that! I can laugh about it now but at the time I was absolutely pooing myself. Whatever happened, happened. After the game we were going to the darts at Ally Pally and Paul Lambert knew that we were going.
“With everything that had happened, after the game all the press wanted to speak to me. He came into the dressing room and told me that I wasn’t going to speak to them and to enjoy the night and not to do anything stupid. I didn’t speak to the press after the game, he protected me in that way.
“We went to Ally Pally, had a few drinks and then the signs started coming out and the lads started writing stuff on cards. There was loads of cards and Holty was like ‘do you want to hold this up?’ and I said no. But Holty told me and I literally held it for two seconds, but it must have been another table who took a photo of it and then it was all over Twitter.
“After the darts, we’ve come out and Holty has gone ‘Jonno, you won’t believe it. Your photo has gone worldwide’ and at that time I wasn’t on Twitter, so I didn’t know what that meant. Holty was laughing his head off and went ‘the gaffer is going to kill you’.
“I woke up the next day – we were staying in London – and I got a knock at my door and I looked through the keyhole and all I could see was my face with that photo and it was on the back of the Sun and Holty was outside my door p****** himself laughing.
“Holty told me the gaffer was going to ring me and to blame it on him. Holty was the captain and he looked after us. We had two days off after that and I turned my phone off for two days because I thought he was going to ring me. I went back into training super early to see the gaffer and I walked in and he didn’t know anything because he was in Scotland and they don’t get papers.
“Luckily he saw the funny side and Holty just said it was the lads. He was laughing but on the same breath he was like ‘I’ve got to go out and say something to the press now’. I think you can laugh about it now but at the time it wasn’t something I was proud of. I haven’t seen him since, but I’m sure he’d see the funny side of it now.”
ON CHRIS HUGHTON:
“I think I missed one game in that season (2012-13), he was good to me. I think a lot of the lads had been there a lot longer than me and knew how Paul Lambert wanted to play. I think Hughton did come in with a different style of play.
“He was very tactical. He was mindful that we were playing in the Premier League against good players whereas Paul Lambert wouldn’t care, if we were playing Manchester United, he’d say ‘if they score two, we’ll score three’.
“Different approaches, different ideas and different philosophies. People weren’t happy with the way he played but we finished 11th. I can only speak for myself, but I really enjoyed my time there and Chris is a great manager. I still speak to him now. I enjoyed playing under him.
“A lot of people just point towards a negative style of play and get tunnel vision on that but results matter. He produces results. Maybe there were games where the fans thought ‘we should be going for this’, but he didn’t. That’s why he’s the manager and they take on responsibility and believe in themselves.
“Chris did that. He said ‘I’m not going to change for anyone. This is the way I play’ and he stuck by it. Credit to him when he got the sack because he stuck by his morals and got Brighton promoted.”
WINNING AT WEMBLEY:
“We went out ten minutes before our usual warm-up so we could go and see our families and wave to them. Every player when you come out at a stadium looks for your family or friends at a stadium. After that, we knew it was game on.
“Before we’re getting ready to warm up, Russ had to go and hand in the team-sheets. He was quick and said, ‘Middlesbrough aren’t even here yet’. The manager used that to gee us up and used it against them. When I did go out to warm-up, I remember seeing their manager and captain running to hand the team-sheets in and they were still in their suits.
“The manager said his speech before we went out but the thing, I’ll never forget is Seb Bassong. He got everyone up in the changing room before we went out. All the staff got into a circle, locking arms and he’s in the middle. He said a prayer for everyone – speaking about it now gives me tingles down my spine!
“I’ve never experienced anything like that in a changing room before. It was one of the most motivational speeches I’ve ever heard. It geed us up and we all shouted before we walked out. The manager was really big on the mental side of games and he’d get you geed up for every game.
“Before a game under Alex Neil, it felt like you were going to war. He used to shout and scream in the dressing room and that really worked for us. We prepared really well and it was one of the best 45 minutes we’d played that season and the game was done in the first half.”