New Barnsley boss Lee Johnson is feeling the love at his new club - even though he wasn’t the Reds’ first choice replacement for Danny Wilson.
Johnson was appointed the club’s new head coach on Wednesday. He became the club’s 15th new manager – although his official title is head coach – in 17 seasons.
Swindon Town boss Mark Cooper was the Reds’ initial choice as Wilson’s successor until the Robins rejected an official approach. However, with Cooper out of the picture the Reds then moved for Johnson – who had two interviews with the club’s owner Patrick Cryne – and a three-and-half-year deal was signed.
And now 33-year-old Johnson, one of the youngest managers in the Football League, is hungry to stamp his philosophy at Oakwell, especially with Barnsley having paid a compensation package to the Latics to release him early from his contract which was due to end in 2018.“Naturally it’s [the turnover of managers is] a concern because you want longevity,” admitted Johnson. “I’m a young manager and I’ll make mistakes as all managers do, but you’ve got to back your ability and feel as though you’re at one with the club. The club are backing me, so there’s nothing more I can ask for. I’ve just got to work tooth and nail now to produce.
“There had been a couple of suggestions of leaving Oldham before, but it wasn’t a case of wanting to leave the club. They gave me my first opportunity and I’ll always be thankful for that, but you want to progress and give yourself the best chance to achieve. I did feel we achieved to a certain level at Oldham, but in football you don’t always get the time and sometimes you’ve got big decisions to make.
“I just felt that now is a great time to put my stamp on this club and achieve something special. I don’t to be disrespectful to Oldham because what we managed to do there was get a very good squad. But certainly the bigger picture, the resources, the fan base and the stadium, well it’s set up for Championship football minimum.”
Johnson’s first test will come away to Gillingham tomorrow when the Reds journey to the Priestfield Stadium. Leading scorer Sam Winnall could return to the fray, while centre-back Peter Ramage is struggling with injury and goalkeeper Ross Turnbull is definitely missing with a back injury. And it will be interesting to see what team Johnson – and his new assistant coach Tommy Wright – will field in their first game in charge.
Back-to-back victories over Crewe and Scunthorpe has certainly given the Reds plenty of confidence, but the Gills are unbeaten in eight and have won five of those fixtures going into this weekend’s fixture.