Embracing the change in style

Embracing the change in style

BFC’s John Johnson has slipped into his role nicely, defending well and scoring vital goals.

From playing in a Middlesbrough side in the English Premier League to representing a new club in India's I-League, John Johnson has travelled a long way in football's unforgiving spectrum but he dusts it off with disturbing nonchalance. 

"Embrace change," he says. "It's been massive for me moving to India... Climate-wise, temperature-wise, the standard, culture and conditions (of football) are obviously a little different. But like I said before, embrace it."

The Bengaluru FC centre-back seems to be embracing the change rather well —  by slotting in three headed goals, bagging three man-of-the-match awards and helping his team enjoy the view from the top of the table.

Johnson, 25, is laidback, unassuming and tackles questions as easily as preventing opposition forwards from scoring. Apart from being uncompromising in 50-50 challenges, which he attributes to his ‘aggressive nature on the field,’ Johnson has also managed to strike an understanding with Beikhoheikei Beingaichho (who has set up all three of the Johnson’s goals). 

"I have been lucky enough to get on the end of those crosses that Beikho (Beikhoheikei) has been putting in. I have always scored a few goals when I was in England and the aim is to score at least five goals a season. We did some work in training with movement and it’s nice to see it paying off.”

Johnson has already become a cult figure for the fans and he is quick to pay them back. “I think the fans have been terrific. Especially on the first day. There was lots of excitement and the buzz was unbelievable.”

Never afraid to go into a tackle because of ‘my style of play,’ Johnson notes that his ability to beat a lot of strikers in aerial duels is because of the ‘place where I come from.’
“Players are obviously a lot more stronger and quicker in the UK. It definitely helps to come from there. But at the same time, I am constantly learning, picking up new things from the lads here." 

While he credits the fellow members of the back four (primarily Curtis Osano, right back Vishal Kumar and left back Keegan Pereira) for their good show in defence, he is quick to say that the entire team is responsible for defending from the front and reveals that coach Ashley Westwood has spent a lot of time in helping them retain the team shape.

Johnson reveals that Westwood was the one who called him up and asked whether he would be interested to come and play for the Bangalore-based club.  “I had a few contract offers this summer and I was speaking to a few clubs when the coach rang me up after he got the coaching job here and asked whether I would like to come (to India). I said yes and was naturally excited because I like to travel.”

The former Middlesbrough academy graduate who played one Premier League game for Middlesbrough says the decision was also helped by the fact that he had known Westwood from their time together at Northampton.

A galaxy of football stars have played under the arch at the New Wembley and Johnson came ever so close to playing in the 90,000-seater during his time at Northampton, with whom he has played over a 100 times.

“It was last season (2012-13) actually in the League II playoff final for promotion to League I (third tier of English football). We were playing Bradford at Wembley. Some of us who were involved in the semifinals against Cheltenham, when we won both the legs 1-0, were dropped. It was a frustrating experience and it was gutting that we lost 3-0 in the final. But sometimes you learn more from your losses than wins.”

Johnson, who supports Liverpool in the Premier League, describes beating them with Northampton as one of the ‘great nights’ of his life.

“At Anfield," he says. “It was the 2010-11 season of the Carling Cup (since rechristened the Capital One Cup) and we beat them on penalties 4-2 after the scores were locked at 2-2. One of the great nights of my career that I will cherish.”

A right-footer who isn’t averse to playing the long diagnol to release the forwards quickly, Johnson is also comfortable on the ball to carry it forward with one-twos. 
His eyes light up with when talking about Middlesborough.

“It’s obviously every kid’s dream to play for his home town club. And while I managed to play only one Premier League game (a 5-0 loss against Chelsea), it was a great experience overall. I was just coming through the reserves and there were all these international stars you see in training… you tend to pick up a lot and learn from then.”

One quick look at Johnson’s Twitter account (@John6Johnson) reveals that he is followed by 206 people.

If he keeps up his good form, it won’t be long before that figure rises at an exponential rate.

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