Derby County FC

Bradley Johnson opens up on tumultuous relationship with Frank Lampard

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Johnson played in the Playoff final for the Rams
Johnson played in the Playoff final for the Rams / Molly Darlington - AMA/GettyImages
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Bradley Johnson has opened up on what it was like to play under Frank Lampard at Derby County.

Johnson spent four years at Pride Park between 2015 and 2019 and was a regular fixture in the Derby side who reached the Championship playoff final under Lampard.

Prior to that he enjoyed spells with Northampton Town, Leeds United and Norwich City as he worked his way up from the non-league game following his release from Arsenal as a youngster.

Johnson has over 100 Premier League appearances to his name and came close to returning to the top-flight in 2019 under Lampard.

"I remember being away pre-season and getting the call that he's our manager," he recalled on the On the Judy podcast. "It got confirmed and I was buzzing. I was on holiday and couldn't wait to get back.

"Obviously I played against him before and he's one of the best midfielders the Premier League have ever had. Being a midfielder myself you always look up to midfielders like him, [Paul] Scholes and [Steven] Gerrard were the three players I looked up to.

"Going in and him greeting you by the door and calling me by my name, I was thinking: 'He knows me!'

"It was good and then again that wore off in a couple of weeks. In the end, I am a footballer and he's my manager. He's Frank Lampard and he's my manager.

"It was good playing underneath him. He knew the game inside out and he was good tactically."

However, although the pair would reconcile eventually, Johnson's relationship with Lampard was not always smooth sailing.

"We had a falling out, it was my own doing really. I got banned for biting, five games," he said.

"I don't know. Melee on the pitch, there was handbags and I got put in a headlock. He was strong and he had me down and my fighting instinct just kicked in. His neck was near my mouth but I didn't actually bite him. His shirt was in my mouth and the camera caught me.

"I got done for five games for that and when you're banned in football you get put on the back burner, which is understandable. I'm not going to be part of this team for five games so I don't expect you to concentrate on me.

"But then I came back from my ban and I wasn't in the squad for the first two weeks. That was acceptable as punishment, I'll get my head down and train.

"And then we played Southampton in the FA Cup and they played youngsters and I wasn't even on the bench.

"So I'm thinking: 'Have I done something wrong now?' Three weeks in and I'm not having this, so I went to see the gaffer.

"He said: 'Your standards in training haven't been good.' I was like, 'I'm not a mindreader, you should have told me'. After that conversation he took responsibility too, admitting he should have pulled me.

"Two weeks later I was back in the team and I played every single game for him after that.

"I think he was still learning on the job. Me now, I've done my coaching badges and I know no matter what you've done in your playing career it's a totally different thing. He will say he learnt a lot that year with Derby."


Subscribe to the On the Judy podcast, part of the 90min podcast network, on your usual podcast platform, and check out new episodes when they drop on YouTube.

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