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Daniel Brigham

Bradley Johnson: an apology (latest blog)

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Bradley Johnson has won over many of his critics this season, including Daniel Brigham.This

isn’t Hugh Grant saying sorry for doing a “bad thing” in a white BMW

convertible, or Bill Clinton confessing that the leader of the free

world was a little bit free with his flies. It’s not Zlatan Ibrahimović

atoning for calling France, where he plays, a “sh*t country”. This is an apology though, in the face of irredeemable evidence. Bradley Paul Johnson, I am sorry. For

calling you a throwback, for saying England will never win a World Cup

while players like you and Scott Parker were playing for Premier League

clubs. For saying you were caught in a nightmarish loop of breaking up

attacks, giving the ball back, breaking up attacks, giving the ball

back, breaki…It was September, 2013 when those words were

written. We didn’t know it back then – although we might have sensed it,

certainly feared it – but Norwich were on the road to relegation. The

team wasn’t functioning; goals weren’t being scored, goals weren’t being

stopped. In the midst of this was Johnson. His attributes were –

are – easy to admire. Wholehearted, committed. A trier, a doer. The

sort of player you willed to do well. But, out on the pitch, in his role

as an enforcer, Johnson’s efforts weren’t being matched by his results.

Long passes arced out of play like tumbleweed bumping into the

distance; short passes put team-mates under pressure. The blog

wasn’t intended as a dig at Johnson; he was a product of an English

footballing culture that for too long, perhaps always, has delivered and

favoured brawns over brains, stoppers rather than starters. Some

agreed, some didn’t – Johnson has always been divisive.Until

this season. Now he unites. Now we are all behind him, and those who

have always loved him keep on reminding the doubters, and deservedly so.

He is the mains that Carrow Road has plugged into this season. He will

undoubtedly, deservedly, win player of the season. There have

been days when Bad Johnson has surfaced. Two early, spectacular, goals

against Watford and Blackburn masked some poor displays, especially when

he was bypassed by Charlton, Rotherham and Fulham. But given more

licence to roam under Neil Adams than under Chris Hughton, Johnson began

to show what he really was: an attacking midfielder, not a defensive

one. We should have known; many did. After all, he’d played on

the left for Leeds. But perhaps his commitment, his love for a tackle,

his physique, had all added up to create a mirage of Johnson The Holding

Midfielder. Adams recognised that his true attributes lay in getting

further up the pitch, but it often came at the expense of the team. Both

he and Tettey would bomb forward together and leave the defence

exposed. Alex Neil came in and polished their roles, giving

balance to the side. Tettey is the designated sitter, and sit he does.

Johnson provides brilliant cover for Martin Olsson’s forays, but he

isn’t expected to mop up, to track runners through the middle as he once

was. Tettey has always been better at those jobs. Instead,

Johnson is left to do what he does best: drifting into the area,

sniffing out goals, winning headers, pressing high, sticking his beard

into places other beards dare not go, and creating space for the more

creative Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans. He hasn’t been

so much as reborn as used correctly. It hasn’t all been perfect

under Neil. Johnson was just as culpable as Steven Whittaker against

Brentford at home, when he struggled against the opposition’s nimble

midfielders. He has only two assists all season. His passing is still,

quite literally, hit and miss at times. But let’s not quibble, not when

all but one of his 13 goals have come in victories, not when his

commitment is now matched gloriously by his results. Even in the

dark days of table-slipping under Adams, Johnson often looked like the

only man in a Norwich shirt who was really desperate for promotion. Now

the whole team is playing like him, the talisman at the centre of a

collective spirit driving Norwich back towards the Premier League. And

perhaps, after all, that really is where Bradley Johnson belongs. Daniel Brigham is a sports journalists and editor. He tweets at @dan_brigham

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A little OTT, Daniel.  I can understand why, but your questions about BJ''s ability at Premiership level remain unanswered.  Brilliant and inspirational as he has been this season, he was seldom either in the Premier League under Lambert or Houghton.
I too have been critical of Johnson and am both surprised and delighted to see his performances this season in a more attacking role, but there is a gulf in class between the Championship and Premier League: I would love to see him bring this newly discovered buccaneering style into the PL. 
As you say, "perhaps, after all, (the Premier League) is where Bradley Johnson belongs."
Let''s hope we find out next season, and let''s hope the answer is another resounding yes.  

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You did damn him with faint praise a couple of times...
My main point is that your criticism of Johnson was based on his PL performances, so there is no need to "apologise" when he has a stormingly successful season in the next league down.  If we go up, and if he does it again, I will join you in the stocks or whatever the modern day equivalent may be.

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Imo Johnson has come of age and all the attributes he has have aligned to make a most effective player for any level of football.  The most you can ask of any player is that they strive to improve and that is something tbh I didn''t think Johnson would be able to do to the extent he has - but he has - through age, experience and personal development and he is now going to be a force wherever we play.  Not great under Lambert or Hughton, but with heart and desire showing under both those, he has now shown under Adams and Neil that he has arrived as a top player - and will be a top performer for us in the prem, if we get there.

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