Bengaluru: With two days to go before Bengaluru FC make their Indian Super League bow against Mumbai City FC, the Albert Roca-coached side will be looking to kick off on the best note possible. An airtight defense could complement the Blues’ attacking prowess, which is why they’ll be glad to restore their backline to full strength with the return of club icon John Johnson.
The Middlesborough academy graduate’s pairing with Juan Antonio at center-back will yet again prove a critical component of this well-meshed team, which missed him dearly during the two-legged AFC Cup semi-final loss to FC Istiklol in October. Johnson missed out on the tie on account of personal business but assured fans that his head was never turned away from a place he calls “practically home”.
“I never wanted to leave the club. I had some family problems and the club was brilliant. They gave me extra time to sort that out. For me, this is the best club in India,” said the 29-year-old said.
The former Northampton Town man has been through thick and thin with the Blues since its inception under Ashley Westwood in 2013. Two I-league titles, a Federation Cup and an AFC Cup final appearance later, Johnson has revelled in a country that has proven unforgiving to most of his English compatriots. The center-half was effervescent in praise for his partner Juanan (as he’s popularly known), and the two lynchpins will look to keep a watertight defense.
“We have a good understanding. We know each other’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. We’ve got Rahul (Bheke) and Subhashish (Bose) pushing us now. We’re flexible as a defensive team and can play three or four or five (at the back).”
And in India’s no. 1 custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Johnson feels blessed to have immense protection between the posts....