BFC has evolved brilliantly, feels John Johnson

“When we first started training here, we just had a dressing room and one dining hall. Now the club's grown so much. We've improved in all areas. The squad has improved every year. I have improved. It's been enjoyable.”

Johnson is one of only two players – Sunil Chhetri the other – left from the time of BFC's inception in 2013.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

 

Defender John Johnson has denied any suggestion that he wanted to leave Bengaluru FC this summer. The centre-half last played for the club in May and missed the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup for personal reasons, sparking rumours of a possible exit. Johnson has, however, rejoined the side ahead of its ISL campaign, and maintains that he never wanted away.

“I never wanted to leave the club at all,” he said at the Football Stadium here. “I just had some family problems back home and the club were brilliant with me. They gave me extra time to sort that out. That's all sorted out and now I'm back here. I've had so much success here. For me, this is the best club in India. There is no reason for me to leave. I have always been happy here. The fans have been brilliant; everyone's helped me since day one. It's been a fantastic journey and long may it continue.”

Johnson is one of only two players – Sunil Chhetri the other – left from the time of BFC's inception in 2013. “The club has evolved brilliantly,” he said. “When we first started training here, we just had a dressing room and one dining hall. Now the club's grown so much. We've improved in all areas. The squad has improved every year. I have improved. It's been enjoyable.”

Ashley Westwood, BFC's former head coach, had been instrumental in bringing Johnson to Bengaluru, with the pair having worked together in the U.K. previously. Johnson, who denied that Westwood had approached him (to join ATK), was asked if it had been difficult to adjust to life under a different coach. “Albert (Roca) came in with different ideas and philosophy; it's been great to add that to my game. Ashley played sometimes in a more aggressive style – a more high-tempo game. Albert's idea of football is more the Spanish way. But they're both very good at what they do. It's a joy to work under two great coaches like that.”

READ: Chhetri: We want to win the ISL

Roca's arrival has also meant that there are more Spanish-speakers around (six in the squad), but Johnson felt communication was not an issue. “The Spanish boys speak English,” he said. “It might be broken English but you can get your point across. They are very intelligent footballers. It doesn't matter what language they speak. It's quite easy to play with them. Of course I might have to learn a little Spanish now. Hola (hello) is all I've picked up.”

READ: BFC season preview

When England won the U-17 World Cup, defeating Spain 5-2 in the final, Johnson posted a jubilant message on the team's WhatsApp group. “He was asking, 'Where is Spain? I cannot see Spain,'” laughed Juanan. "But we are friends. There is no problem." He and Johnson are now reunited in the centre of defence; the Sree Kanteerava Stadium will be a happier place for it.

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