#WHUAREYA - Ben Johnson


As Dimitri Payet curled home his fourth direct free-kick of the campaign at Manchester United last season, there would have been no shortage of youngsters attempting to replicate the stunner in back gardens all over the country.
For 16-year-old midfielder Ben Johnson, it was slightly different; he was doing his best to imitate Payet’s feats on the training pitches the Frenchman also graces.
“He’s an amazing player,” says Johnson, in admiration of the superstar. “It’s great to watch him play. I think out of the West Ham first team squad, he’s the player I’m most like. I like him a lot.
“His set pieces are incredible, and I like to think I hit a good set piece too. I just love watching creative players like Payet. Mesut Ozil also, and obviously Lionel Messi. They’re all fantastic footballers and I try to be like them on the pitch.”
Johnson sees himself as an attacking talent who can “pass quickly, dribble well, hit a good shot and drive from deep”. Those attributes, of course, are plain to see in Payet’s all-round game.
As for this season, the 29-year-old will be hoping to continue his excellent form that helped France reach the UEFA Euro 2016 final. Johnson hopes a similarly positive campaign is in store for him.
“I want to play a lot of U23s football this season if I can – that’s got to be one of my aims,” he continues. “I want to train regularly with them, and then if I get the chance, to train with the first team maybe a few times.
“I need to try my hardest in training and work my way up. I’ve been at the Club nine years now, and every session, every week, the relationship between me and the Club gets bigger, I feel.
“I really love the Club a lot and I think I can go far here.”
While the youngster has begun the season with the U18 squad, he also enjoyed time with the Hammers’ PL2 side during pre-season in Holland this summer.
“It was a great trip, because we built that team spirit that can serve you well if you take it onto the pitch. If you have a good connection off the pitch, it’s often the same on it and that is a key to success in my opinion.
“We chilled out a lot, played some FIFA and had a laugh – it was a great trip for us to bond.”