John Johnson: ‘There is still a lot to play for’

“But we have the AFC Cup coming up. The Fed Cup will come up. And we still have a mathematical possibility to win the I-League. So we’re hoping to turn the season overall into a positive one,” Bengaluru FC defender Johnson said.

BFC's (Bengaluru Football Club) John Johnson back in training after having recovered from a fractured rib, in Bengaluru.   -  Special Arrangement

It is safe to say that Bengaluru FC’s title chances are hanging by a thread. After having started the defence of the I-League crown with three straight wins, it has dropped points in each of its next seven games including two crushing defeats to arch-rival East Bengal. Currently it lies fifth with 13 points, trailing leader East Bengal by 11.

For defensive mainstay John Johnson, this period has been doubly frustrating. While the two defeats against East Bengal and Churchill Brothers, which started the slump, saw him in not exactly fine mettle, a suspension and a fractured rib has meant that he has missed every subsequent match.

“It’s been a difficult month for sure,” Johnson said. “For me, it’s more because I have not been able to help when they needed me the most. You could say it’s the toughest phase since I came here. But we have the AFC Cup coming up. The Fed Cup will come up. And we still have a mathematical possibility to win the I-League. So we’re hoping to turn the season overall into a positive one.”

The reason for the slump, the 28-year-old felt, was due in part to individual errors and to some wretched luck. “The last stage of the AFC Cup and beginning of this season is the best football this club has seen. We have been unlucky with suspensions, injuries and missed opportunities at the goal. I don’t like to use the word unlucky because I believe it’s we who create our luck. But we have really been [unlucky].

“Everyone can see the way the goals were conceded. I have made two [mistakes] and it has cost us. It’s not that teams are playing [better] football. We are cruising in the game and then get punished through a mistake. But we are going to move forward and keep working hard to improve as always.”

It is in times such as these, Johnson said, that the likes of himself and Sunil Chhetri, who have been at the club since its inception, should play the leading role. The former Middlesbrough defender is back in training too and might just be fit for the away trip to Minerva Punjab on March 5.

“The seniors have to help the young lads. It’s funny because we had a blip I think at the start of the second season when we lost three games in a row. Otherwise we have had constant success. So this [crisis] is a measure to see how we react. The youngsters are trying extra hard. It’s still a long time to go and we have to speak to youngsters and help them. It’s a testing time for us but it’s a time we can use to prove people wrong. There is still a lot to play for.”