‘I wanted to stay’ - Bradley Johnson on why he left City
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When Bradley Johnson left Norwich City to join Derby County on deadline day in 2016, it came as a big shock - not least to the man himself.
Johnson had played a pivotal role in helping the Canaries reach the Premier League under Alex Neil, scoring 15 times and being crowned player of the season.
The midfielder was even involved in City’s opening four fixtures prior to his departure.
“I was sitting at home and I got a phone call from my agent saying that clubs had been bidding for me and there had been a bid accepted,” said Johnson.
“I was thinking ‘really?’. That was a night before deadline day, so I went in and spoke to the manager and everyone else but I think, in all fairness and respect to Alex Neil, it was out of his hands a little bit. It was more a decision the club made as a board about getting good money.”
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The Scot described the reasoning behind Johnson’s exit, claiming the deal was too good to turn down for a player who wouldn’t feature in his starting XI.
“I played the games under Alex Neil but maybe they saw it like that because I didn’t start the last three games under him before I left,” said Johnson.
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“At the end of the day, I’m old enough to know that football, from the fan’s perspective, you want to see the best players, but for the club, it’s a business.
“They got a good offer for me from Derby and they accepted it. It was a strange day for me with everything happening in the last minute.”
Even as the deal was completed, Johnson wanted to stay: after everything he had achieved, culminating in Wembley success, he wanted to play a role in the Premier League.
He said: “Coming down to Derby and signing for them but wanting to be at Norwich after that season, getting promoted, I signed a new four-year deal so I thought ‘this is it, I’m going to be settled at Norwich now’.
“Alex Neil wanted me to stay, he said ‘you’re one of our best players and what you did for us last year, I can’t thank you enough.
“It was just one of them where we had to come to some sort of agreement because the club wanted the money for me and felt they could use that to strengthen the team and stay in the Premier League.
“I have no hard feelings against Alex Neil. I still speak to him now – but it was a big shock for me and the Norwich fans.”