Ben Johnson has taken another big step forward in his West Ham United career after being named in the Irons’ Premier League Asia Trophy squad.
The 19-year-old has impressed hugely during the Hammers’ preseason training camp in Switzerland and has been rewarded with a seat on the plane to China.
There, the full-back is relishing the prospect of tackling Premier League champions Manchester City – the same opponents he made an eye-catching first-team debut against at the Etihad Stadium in February this year.
This feels like the next step for me as I’ll be around the first-team squad as we get closer to the Premier League season
“I’m extremely honoured to have been named in the squad for the trip to China,” said Johnson. “My task is to do as much as I can and the best I can and thankfully it was enough, but now I have got to give everything back and repay the manager’s faith in me.
“This feels like the next step for me as I’ll be around the first-team squad as we get closer to the Premier League season. This was my aim and it will help enhance my game and my fitness.”
The week-long trip to Nanjing and Shanghai will not be Johnson’s first experience of football in China, as he has represented West Ham at the annual Soccer Sevens tournament in Hong Kong.
Knowing a little of what to expect, the defender is looking forward to returning to the Far East for the prestigious Premier League Asia Trophy, whose participants also include Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
With an eleven-hour flight and testing weather conditions to look forward to, Johnson says the Hammers need to be prepared mentally and physically for the challenges they will face in Nanjing and Shanghai.
“I’ve played in Hong Kong before and the weather is hot and humid and it’s a long flight to the Far East, so it takes a day or two to get used to it but, once you’re there, the work and the football are the same as always,” he continued.
“The climate will be tough, as will playing against players as good as Manchester City’s. They have loads of internationals, so we don’t know exactly who we will face. There could be some youngsters playing for them, so it will be interesting to see.”