Johnson jumps at the chance to step up and manage Bristol City

As a small boy, Lee Johnson would hide in the dressing room skips to listen to his dad Gary’s pre-match team talks at Newmarket Town.

Fast forward 30 years and Johnson will this weekend be delivering his own team talk to the third club of his young, managerial career.

The Newmarket-born manager was appointed as the new boss for Sky Bet Championship outfit Bristol City on Saturday.

And ahead of his first game in charge against Ipswich Town this Saturday (3pm), Johnson revealed his initial surprise at the offer to return to Ashton Gate to manage the Robins.

“It was quite a shock,” said Johnson, who left his former club Barnsley in 12th place in League One.

“Steve Cotterill got the sack in early January and the club put together a list of names, and I had no idea I was included in that.

“At Barnsley we were flying but sometimes in football the time is right to move on. I fitted the profile for the club and I didn’t know they wanted me until the evening of the JPT (Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) Area Final on Thursday.”

In what turned out to be Johnson’s last game in charge of the Tykes, Adam Hammill scored the winning spot kick against Fleetwood Town to book Barnsley’s place in the final of the JPT at Wembley.

“It was hard to leave Barnsley because you build an affinity with the players,” Johnson said.

“You feel like you’ve improved them. We went on a horrendous run earlier in the season and then all of a sudden we went on an unbelievable run.

“It feels like you’ve gone through a journey which wasn’t complete. But I’ve got a wife and a little girl who I only saw once a week, so this move is good for the family.”

The 34-year-old spent six years of his playing career at Bristol City, and under the management of his dad Gary, was part of the Robins team that won promotion to the Championship in the 2006-07 season.

Johnson was a key figure in the City side in the following season as they narrowly missed out on going up into the Barclays Premier League, after losing 1-0 to Hull City in the play-off final at Wembley.

The former Oldham Athletic and Barnsley boss racked up nearly 200 appearances for City, and takes over as manager with the club just three points above the Championship relegation zone in 21st place.

“The short term targets are to win as many games as you can,” he said. “We’ve got a good squad here and we’ve got every chance of staying up.

“Against Ipswich on Saturday we need to get off to a good start, get the players buzzing and have more of the nice vibe going around the ground.”