All-action midfielder worthy of individual acclaimIn the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncer looks back at why Bradley Johnson picked up the Barry Butler Memorial trophyfor Norwich City's Player of the Season.
Something Bradley Johnson said at the start of this rollercoaster of a Sky Bet Championship campaign struck a chord with me.
Johnson, Norwich City’s Player of the Season, was speaking to City360, our access-all-areas documentary series, back in September.
“I’ve played a lot of games for this club and I was part of the team that went down, so it’s only right for me to stay here and get them back to where they want to be: the Premier League.
“I’m going to stay, fight for the club and fight for the team, and hopefully get us back up.”
Football is packed with platitudes, but placed alongside a highlights reel of the midfielder’s 2014-15, the veracity of this bold and honest statement is confirmed.
The tone was set early on: Johnson scored the Canaries’ first goal of the season, a delightful pitching wedge floated into the corner that set his team on the path to a 3-0 win over Watford.
Intensity increased, just three days on, he was at it again versus Blackburn. Head up, dink, goal. Then his celebratory charge to the left (always to the left), which has become his trademark. The stadium almost gets in the way – if it wasn’t there, you feel he’d keep charging and charging, fists clenched, off beyond the horizon.
The goals, close to all 15 of them, stick in the memory, but Johnson has thrust himself into the role of City’s go-to man through not only his dramatic sense of timing but thanks to a relentless competitive courage.
On a booking against Fulham on Saturday, the bundle of energy – there’s so much of that motorcycle stunt kid still inside him – chased, harried and hassled in our least significant game of the year.
His absolute desire to win football matches for Norwich City has been evident in other ways too.
Following the Canaries’ FA Cup exit to Preston in January, Johnson admitted to one of the ‘lowest’ feelings of his playing career, and upon picking up his decisive tenth yellow card against Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Monday, the former Leeds man was inconsolable, despite earlier netting twice to earn his side the victory.
By that point, judging by voices through social media he was already well on his way to lifting the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy as City’s standout performer.
Since scoring five times in December, his form has been imperious. Across six days in February and March, the talisman’s influence was season-changing.
Against Blackburn once more, he settled the game in City’s favour with a fierce blast from the edge of the box, a strike that was unlikely to be bettered or outweighed in significance - until it was surpassed in the East Anglian derby just the following Sunday.
When Lewis Grabban’s reverse ball trickled into his path, the outcome was almost inevitable. The sight of Johnson galloping in at the back-post will be one of the lasting images of this term.
A word of course must go to the second and third placed stars in the running for Player of the Season, both of whom have shone.
Wes Hoolahan’s form has at times been up there with his best in yellow and green, and he could very well hold the key in the unpredictable play-offs. Without Cameron Jerome’s goals and consistent effort for the cause, we wouldn’t be there at all.
But this has been Bradley Johnson’s time – and there’s still scope for him to top it all.