If there is one man to thank for getting HuddersfieldTown into the promised land of the Championship, I firmly believe it is Damien Johnson. Yes others may say Jordan Rhodes or Alex Smithies for his wonderful play-off penalty display, but the formerNorthern Ireland international dragged us into the final.
Admittedly I did not watch the entire first leg of our play-off semi-final against the MK Dons as I was playing cricket, but everyone I know who went to the game raved about Johnsons performance in the centre of midfield and said he was the catalyst to our 2-0 victory. That was mirrored in a very tense second leg back at the Galpharm where as usual we did our best to blow a three goal lead.
However, Johnson that night was brilliant. He did everything we have wanted a centre-midfielder to do all season by tracking back, closing the opposition down, playing simple balls, driving forward on occasions and timing his tackles to perfection. That couldn’t be said of his midfield partner Tommy Miller but we shall gloss over that.
His performance was replicated in the play-off final where he controlled the centre of midfield, again doing the simple things well whilst also driving forward on occasion. Yes he may have missed a penalty but I would have given him man of the match for the most nervous match I have ever watched as a Town fan.
Sadly though that game will be the last time we shall see Johnson after he last week completed a move to the Football League new boys, Fleetwood Town. Of course Town did offer him a contract but I can understand why Johnson turned it down, as Town would have only offered a one-year-deal and with talk of several new centre-midfielders, the chances of Johnson playing regularly were slim.
Fleetwood on the other hand could offer him a longer contract, more stability and first-team-football, added to that the Highbury outfit are also quite flush with cash and would no doubt be able to offer him a wage that could probably match our offer, if not better it. I would like to wish Damien the best of luck in the future and to Fleetwood too who are a very well run and welcoming club.
However, whilst Johnsons departure may be disappointing it may also be a blessing in disguise. He has spent two injury ravaged seasons with Town and at the age of 33, it would be a huge risk for the club to sign him to more than a one-year-deal or anything more than pay-as-you-play.
It is also an opportunity for Simon Grayson to bring in at least one central midfielder with goal scoring ability, something which we have lacked since Michael Collins’ departure. Keiran O’Regan mentioned in the Huddersfield Town fans forum on Radio Leeds, that Lee Clark had brought in too many similar central midfielders, all who barring Oscar Gobern lacked the threat of getting 5-10 goals regularly a season.
Hopefully Grayson can now bring in one or two goal scoring midfielders, whilst also someone who can protect the back four better than what Johnson has done over the past two seasons. Questions will remain over the remaining central midfielders at Town as both Scott Arfield and Anton Robinson (who has been linked with a move back to Bournemouth) haven’t lived up to their potential since joining the club and Oscar Gobern has been constantly injured and even called “glass ankles” by fellow players over twitter.
Farewell Damien, and except for that penalty thanks for the memories. Now Mr Grayson lets see some quality signings.