Norwich City’s Bradley Johnson doesn’t bear a grudge towards Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
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Bradley Johnson could be forgiven for bearing a grudge towards Arsene Wenger but the Norwich City midfielder is a confirmed admirer of the Frenchman's Emirates masterpiece.
Wenger made his feelings clear towards Johnson after last season's corresponding fixture when Bacary Sagna suffered a broken leg following a tangle with the Norwich midfielder in the opening period of the Canaries' 3-3 Premier League draw.
Johnson also suffered teenage rejection by his boyhood club during Wenger's long tenure, but the midfielder is no convert to the ever-growing clamour for the studious Frenchman's departure. Johnson struggles to grasp the argument how Arsenal would be better off without the manager who has transformed his team since an unheralded arrival way back in 1996.
'I don't see how anyone can question Wenger and say they should get rid of him, because he is a great manager. They will finish top four – after we beat them,' he said. 'Wenger has been there and throughout his whole time there he has proven everyone wrong. Everyone says he hasn't bought, he hasn't done this, but they have always finished in the top four. Obviously they've not had the best of seasons this year, but they are still up there.
'We will go there and do the same as what we did to them at Carrow Road earlier on in the season, so hopefully it will be a good game.
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'It's always a test going to the big clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United, but that's why we want to be in the Premier League, to test ourselves against the best teams in the league and there is no better place to play. The Emirates is a great stadium and Arsenal is a great team. They've got to lose some time and hopefully we can give them a defeat.'
Johnson has spoken movingly in the past about those mental scars that took months to heal after his Arsenal dream was shattered, but his football life story is also an inspiring tale for Norwich's brightest young talent, who have an FA Youth Cup semi-final, second leg on the horizon.
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'I've made it myself through hard work,' he said. 'At the time I was heartbroken when they released me, but I've got a good family behind me who believed in me, and I believed in myself and I knew what I had to do to get back into football and that was to work hard.
'I'll be honest, I'm not going to say I'm the best player, but one thing I do have in my locker is I've got a good work ethic and I work hard. If the manager tells me to go out there on a Saturday and run the most out of everyone then I'll do that because that's what I do. I've worked hard to get where I am now and to stay here you've got to work even harder.
'We're very supportive of the young lads. I think if you see us in and around the training ground they are always with us. We have a strong bond with them and we have a laugh with them. I was down at Carrow Road for the last round supporting them and they are a good team. All the lads are going to go and watch again.'
Johnson's consistency has earned him a permanent role in Hughton's Premier League plans this season – give or take the odd disciplinary indiscretion – and a new improved Norwich contract. Proof positive hard work pays off.
'I honestly do feel that I am in the best form of my career,' he said. 'It's always good to play every week but I know there are lads who can come into the team and do maybe an even better job than I can do. It's down to me to keep the shirt every Saturday, train hard during the week and hopefully get picked.
'There are a lot of players at this club who are good enough to play in the Premier League, or are good enough to get into any Championship side, and it's down to the lads who are getting the shirt week in and week out to keep those lads out.
'I'd like a few more goals. In my time at Leeds I got a few and I was known as a goalscoring midfielder, but the way the manager wants us to play here, he wants us to shore things up at the back and if he asks me to sit back and defend then I'm happy to do that. Hopefully I can chip in with a few goals between now and May.'