In late May, when FC Pune City announced former Manchester City assistant coach David Platt would return to management with the second edition of the Indian Super League, it was evident English players would find their way into the relatively new tournament. Eleven Englishmen have arrived in India this season as opposed to just four last year.
Among all the English players that have turned up in FC Pune City colours this season, former Birmingham City centre-back Roger Johnson is arguably the most high-profile one. “This is a new adventure,” Johnson told FirstPost in an exclusive interview.
Once described by The Daily Telegraph as an ‘inspiring defensive presence’, Johnson had played a key role when Birmingham City upset Arsenal to win the Football League Cup in the 2010/11 season – the Englishman assisting Nikola Zigic’s opening goal in a 2-1 victory.
“I wanted something different. I have played a long time in England, so this is a new challenge. The manager being English and the sort of players Pune was signing definitely influenced my decision,” explained Johnson on how he zeroed in on the Indian Super League.
Although Johnson has been in England for the entirety of his career, ‘adapting to India was not a problem’ for the 32-year-old, considering the Stallions’ pre-season conditioning camp was held in Antalya. “In summer time in England, it gets extremely hot. Turkey was really hot. Good five-six weeks training there helped us to adapt. It is not as hot here as it was in Turkey. We trained hard there and got really good fitness in. So coming to India, it was easy to adapt,” elaborated Johnson.
When asked if he would be interested in playing in India for a longer span of time, Johnson admits he would consider the option, should the opportunity arise. “I will have to see what other things will happen at the time. I certainly won’t rule coming back out at this point, but once I finish the ISL, we will see after that,” Johnson said.
Johnson, however, admits the quality of the league, which was conceived just last year, has genuinely surprised him. Having plied his trade in all the four top tiers of English football, Johnson has faced a multitude of attacking players throughout his career. “As everyone has got international players, majority of the time I have faced international players,” he concedes.
“Certainly, the Indian players have impressed me – from my team and other teams. It has been difficult and interesting. All round, the quality of players have been above what I thought it would be,” the former Wolverhampton Wanderers skipper said.
FC Pune City’s away form has been a cause of concern, as the club narrowly missed out on a semifinal berth. While lack of goals have been the main problem, the defense have not covered themselves in glory either. “We have been very poor away from home. We let ourselves down on all aspects while on the road. At home, we have picked up points. It is our away form why we are in the league table where we are,” Johnson rued.
Talking about the Indian defenders, Johnson mentions how Gouramangi Singh and Dharmaraj Ravanan have impressed him.” I won’t single people out or comment on other teams, but everyone has done their job. Everyone has trained hard and when they have been picked, given their best,” Johnson points out.
When asked where he sees himself in a month’s time, Johnson admitted he would decide only after his stint with FC Pune City came to an end. “Initially, I’ll go back to England – it’s Christmas time and then the January window opens. So, I’ll see where I carry on. I haven’t made any commitments so far, but we will see in January,” Johnson signed off.
Updated Date: Dec 05, 2015 18:13 PM