Johnson keen on setting a platform

Johnson keen on setting a platform

He has been Stephen Constantine’s trusted lieutenant for a long time. And it was no surprise when the Englishman insisted on getting Lee Johnson on board when he took over the reigns of the Indian side in January.

Appointed as the assistant to Constantine, the 34-year-old Johnson has also been handed the responsibility of guiding the India U-19 side. He said the role could help in a smooth transition of players from the age-group sides to the national side.

“I was initially brought in as the assistant to Stephen (Constantine). But later it was his idea that I should be with the U-19s,” said the former Chelsea FC’s Academy coach.

“I have been working alongside Stephen for long now. And I know the players he would like to have in his side. So with me handling the U-19 side, I can put the boys through a system that he would have with his senior side. This will help the players to adapt quickly,” he said.

Johnson was in Bengaluru along with the U-19 side that played Bengaluru FC in two friendly ties. Though the result was a disappointment for the Indian colts (losing both the games 2-5), their coach had many positives to talk about. “We played very well in the two games and kept our composure. We could move the ball nicely and also could create many opportunities,” he said.

“These games were never about the results for me. I wanted the boys to go out and have give their best against a professional setup. There are few areas that we have to work on. And the boys will learn from our mistakes,” he added.

With the U-19 side being involved in three tournaments this year, including the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship qualifying rounds in Palestine later this year, lack of enough game time is a cause of concern for Johnson.

“Yes, it bothers me. It’s an unfortunate thing that a lot of these players that we have, haven’t had that much football experience. Some of the players have played a maximum of 30-40 games in their life. If an 18-19 year old has played only a small amount of football, we can’t expect them to be up there. It will take time,” he said.

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