Johnson: It’s down to me to grasp the opportunity I’ve been given
The 2019/20 campaign could be the biggest season in Ben Johnson’s young career so far and the West Ham United defender is determined to not let his opportunity slip away.
Having begun last campaign in the Academy side, Johnson made his Premier League debut against Manchester City in February and was quickly rewarded with a new, long-term contract earlier this year.
The 19-year-old has been a part of manager Manuel Pellegrini’s pre-season plans all summer, joining the first team in Switzerland and China while appearing in the Hammers’ fixtures.
The most recent showing saw Johnson start in his favoured right-back role away to Fulham on Saturday, putting in a mature showing, and the defender is eager to capitalise on his performance.
“I think I played well against Fulham,” Johnson told whufc.com. “I know I’ve made mistakes in training, but I’ve learned from them, which is good. I’m just trying to stay switched on.
“I just want to take on my form now. I think I’m playing with confidence and I hope I can keep doing so out in Austria and as we go into the start of the season.
“The back end of last season I started to play, and this summer has allowed me to get even more familiar with the boys. I’m feeling more comfortable. I’ve just got to really grasp this opportunity that I’ve been given. I’m grateful for the opportunity and now I’ve just got to keep working hard and pushing on.
“I’m 19 but it’s on performance. Hopefully the manager picks me but that’s down to me and what I can do. It’s about working hard and showing that I am good enough to earn that spot.”
The Academy graduate played the first 64 minutes of Saturday’s win, which came thanks to Manuel Lanzini’s fantastic strike from the edge of the area. Johnson recognises that the Irons came through a difficult test in beating Fulham.
The defender hailed the efforts of West Ham’s two newest signings, Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller, who also both looked sharp and gave impressive outings in their first showings in Claret and Blue.
He continued: “Saturday was a good win. It was a good game for us against tough opposition. It was their last game before their season started so we knew it would be a good test for us. We were up for the game and we’ve got to take that into the season now.
“Pablo is a great player and a great guy. He’s so friendly and you can see technically what he is all about. He plays with intelligence and you can see that in the positions he picks up. You can see he is going to be a top player for us.
“Sebastien up top is the cliché No9. He’s big but he can play as well! He will say he should have scored against Fulham, but I think he will get loads of goal for us. They both looked good.”
The opening match of the season, at home to Manchester City, is less than two weeks away, and Johnson genuinely believes that West Ham have the capability to reach new heights in the 2019/20 campaign.
Pellegrini’s philosophy to becoming a big team certainly has taken root with the right-back, who feels the side boast the quality in the squad to finish high up the Premier League table this term.
“When we’re at our best, we can achieve great things,” Johnson added. “We should aim high.
“With the players we’ve got, the calibre of talent like Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, we’re showing we’re a big team and we should be pushing on.”