Fitter, happier, more productive – what has made Bradley Johnson so good for Norwich City?
- Credit: PA
Some players go through hot streaks and it's not entirely clear exactly why or what's changed for them.
And one player enjoying one of those fantastic purple patches at the moment is our very own Bradley Johnson.
So certain is he to pick up the player of the season award, I'm surprised Norwich's politicians haven't been in touch for tips on how to comfortably walk away with the spoils in a May vote.
While his surge in form is obvious to even the most casual of Canaries, I also think it's possible to pinpoint some of the reasons for it.
And to do that it is first essential to go back four years to when the midfielder signed from the Canary Academy (also known as Leeds United).
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Take a look at images of him at that time – and in his Leeds colours – and you get a hint that the transformation hasn't just concentrated on his football finesse.
The 27-year-old's body frame is completely different now.
- 1 'It's not even that short' - schoolboy, 14, put in isolation due to haircut
- 2 'Red-and-white spray paint doesn't count' - three danger lorries stopped
- 3 Nick Knowles joins outcry as Norfolk police told to close Twitter accounts
- 4 Part of A47 closed after concerns for woman’s welfare
- 5 Fresh calls for action over 'unacceptable' queues at A11 roundabout
- 6 'Second time this year' - Armed police called to Norwich street
- 7 Hundreds flock to see exotic birds in Yarmouth bushes
- 8 Norfolk man found drunk at wheel twice in less than a month
- 9 Holidaymakers rescued after boat lodged under bridge
- 10 Bargain Hunt films at Norfolk collectables shop
While that's not to suggest a particular fitness issue in the past, his broad shoulders and big chest of then has been replaced by a leaner, more productive model.
It's one that is probably more conducive to the pace of modern day football and has made Johnson fitter and more mobile. Of course all the running and fitness in the world is no use if you can't play football – and it seems obvious Johnson has put in some real time on the training ground to make himself better at doing just that.
Let's be honest, it's taken a while for a lot of Norwich fans to be entirely convinced by the Londoner.
That his heart was in the right place, his attitude good and his desire strong was clear, but he had the ability to frustrate as much as delight.
On his bad days, mistimed tackles, mishit passes and sky-high shots all too regularly brought groans of frustration. When he was good, he was very good, but did that happen often enough?
If it didn't then, it does now and he has brought newfound consistency into his game, as well as improved in several key areas. His passing is better, tackling improved (although 10 bookings hints at an area he can still work on) and shooting has been nothing short of transformed.
Meanwhile, just as impressive to a Sunday league centre-back like myself is his ability to leap fish-like, with superb timing, to win headers at both ends of the pitch. Can you remember the last time he was beaten in the air?
With a new manager in place it would be easy to lavish Alex Neil with all sorts of praise for the resurrection of Brad, but to be fair to the City staff and the man himself, it goes back further than the last few months.
That said, Neil has placed the cherry on top by finding a position and playing style that suits him down to the ground. Technically he's been playing in a left-midfield role, but in reality, with Neil's preferred style, the full-backs are more often than not fulfilling the role of a traditional winger, freeing Johnson to find the space where he is currently causing so much trouble.
When previously played in the centre of the pitch it felt like he tried too many long, raking passes, the ones that led to the groans as they failed to reach the intended target. On the left he keeps it short and simple, utilising the short-passing ability of team-mates to go round players. So many of City's recent goals have come this way.
On this form other clubs, including those in the Premier League, must be circling like vultures, ready to pounce if City fail. I also wonder if the likes of Wales, Scotland or Ireland have been checking his family tree.
I just hope those vultures are kept at bay and he gets to take that form into next season's Premier League, in the colours of yellow and green.