City midfield star Bradley Johnson is hoping that his second, full season in the Premier League can further his international ambitions as the Canaries gather themselves for the big kick-off at Fulham on Saturday.
John Ruddy, Robert Snodgrass, Russell Martin and Steve Morison were all absent from Colney this week on international duty as new boss Chris Hughton prepared for his own managerial debut on the banks of the Thames.
And after figuring in a provisional list last season, so 25-year-old Johnson is hoping that another compelling campaign in the heart of that City midfield can push his claims further – particularly after watching team-mate Ruddy make his own, full England debut against Italy this evening as the Norwich No1 replaced Jack Butland for the second period and kept a clean sheet in amidst that 2-1 success.
“I will try and get in the Norwich team first, but if I play well enough for Norwich then who knows what can happen?” said Johnson, speaking fresh from the 2-0 home defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.
“I got into the provisional squad last year which was a great feeling for myself but I didn’t make it, it has given me that incentive to push on this year and, hopefully, get in the England squad.
“But, like I said, I have to play well for Norwich first and then see what happens. But they are coming to watch us and if you do well in the Premier League then you are going to get loads of people watching you.”
Never exactly the shrinking violet on the pitch, this season Johnson will be going back into battle with his eyes wide open after last season’s Premier League debut.
“We know what it’s all about,” he said. “Last year we didn’t really know what to expect in the Premier League and at the start of it we made a lot of mistakes – we gave away five penalties in the first five games I think it was.
“And mistakes in this league cost you. And they cost us dearly last year. But once we got that first win under our belt, we kicked on. And, hopefully, we can cut out the mistakes this year and really kick on.”
Johnson has featured heavily in Hughton’s pre-season thinking; the competition for his type of place eased somewhat by the exit of Andrew Crofts for Brighton and the injury knock for David Fox.
Alongside him has been his ex-Leeds team-mate Jonny Howson; just in front of them another Elland Road export in Scottish international Robert Snodgrass. All three will know each other’s game inside out, but is it not slightly strange to have such a reunion in such a congested midfield department?
“It’s not strange – whoever I play in there with, we know we’re going to give 110 per cent. Whoever plays in this team and for this club will give 110 per cent,” he said.
“But it’s good to be in there with Jonny [Howson] and Snods [Snodgrass]. We not what we’re all about and we had three good years at Leeds – but, hopefully, we can now have another three good years here at Norwich.”
Snodgrass, of late, has been playing in the little hole off skipper Grant Holt – to mixed results, one might suggest.
His usual habitat is out wide where he performed “brilliantly” at Leeds, said his former team-mate.
“I’ve seen him tear up a few players there, but Snods is a player that you can put anywhere and he’ll do a job for the team – and he’s got that little bit of something special that he can pull out of the bag now and again,” said the one-time Arsenal youngster.
“And when we played the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal [in the cup], he’s done really well. And I know he’s playing in a different role in behind the striker, but he’s a great player and long may he have a good season at Norwich this year.”
Should he end up back out on the flank if the likes of a James Vaughan or a fit-again Jacob Butterfield stake a claim, so Snodgrass will become one of 11 midfielders at Hughton’s disposal – 11 into four doesn’t go easily.
“It keeps everyone on their toes,” said Johnson. “And I’m working my hardest in training to make sure I get that shirt for Saturday.”
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