Norwich City’s top 100 appearances: Bradley Johnson (95) – the man who hauled the Canaries back to the Premier League and still gets talked about two years later
PUBLISHED: 06:07 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:15 15 January 2020
155 appearances/21 goals
Some will say the fact Norwich City fans still talk about Bradley Johnson is a damning indictment of the club's recent decisions. But in truth, it says just as much about the man himself.
One of the first signings made by Paul Lambert to kick-start the Canaries' 2012 Premier League preparations - and as a free agent from Leeds - Rob Newman's verdict was straightforward.
Manager at Cambridge United as Johnson came through the ranks, Newman liked the signing. He just wasn't expecting him to feature ahead of their more established midfielders, who had lifted the club from League One to England's top flight: "You need a squad of 18, 19, 20, and the beauty is Norwich are buying players at good ages…they have ambition, are all hungry to do well in the Premier League. So it bodes well."
It really did. Johnson played an active role on City's productive top-flight return, earning their first win thanks to his first goal - a powerful header from a free-kick, to seal victory at Bolton. Plenty more of those followed over the next four seasons.
By the following campaign, Chris Hughton was in charge and Johnson's role switched from all-action midfielder to a holding shift. One goal and a flurry of wayward shots followed - he was further out, but still had the desire to join in the scoring fun.
Yet Johnson missed just one Premier League game as City finished 11th, and he came third in the player of the season voting.
The following term, City and Hughton were found out. Johnson never stopped running or taking responsibility - but in such ruthless scenery, that was never going to be enough. Relegation followed, and it hurt.
From there, Johnson had the season of his life: 44 appearances, 15 goals and player of the season sewn up by January. At times, he single-handed hauled Norwich through the Championship mud. His 2015 May day at Wembley - our day at Wembley - owed as much to Johnson as anyone.
His £6m sale to Derby come the end of August was a shock. The logic was there, but the concerns won over. City gave something up that day they still haven't replaced.
From performing as a boy with a motorcycle stunt group at the Royal Norfolk Show, to completing a bricklaying course as a Premier League player - Johnson wasn't your usual modern day footballer.
But then, what he did on the pitch proved pretty memorable too.