Spa days and replays – Ben Johnson stops to reflect during international break
After a fortnight flying high as West Ham United regular, Ben Johnson kept his feet firmly on the ground during the international break, relaxing with family and reflecting on his game.
The 3-2 win against Liverpool capped a memorable spell for the full-back, who started for West Ham in four successive Premier League wins, helping his side climb to third in the table.
Johnson would have been forgiven for wanting to bask in his success, but the mature 21-year-old applied the brakes and contemplated his fruitful run during the time away.
You don’t expect to just come in the team and keep your place, so it’s been great – I’ve enjoyed every minute
He said: “Having a couple of days off gave me a good time to reflect – if you’re playing on Thursday and then on Sunday, you don’t get time to because you’ve got to focus on the next game.
“To have a break and think about what I’ve achieved is a great feeling.”
With a supportive network of friends and family around him, Johnson used the break as an opportunity to share his pride with those close to him.
“Obviously, for my friends who are West Ham fans and of course my Mum and Dad who have taken me all over the country, it’s been great for them to see that I’m at this point now,” he explained.
After notching his first goal of the campaign against Aston Villa, Johnson provided fans with a unique celebration, recreating a viral video of him dancing to Panjabi MC’s ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’ as a schoolboy.
The celebration fired the full-back firmly into the spotlight amongst Hammers fans, who have since started singing the popular bhangra song in support.
According to Johnson, his mother has since joined the party, jovially putting the song on repeat at the family home.
He joked: “The day after, my Mum was playing that song all day – she was playing it on the speakers just for a laugh.
“Taking in the new song and things like that has been great!”
During the rest, Johnson also found time to hop in the sauna and decompress, away from the fast-paced landscape of professional football.
“I went to a spa over the weekend just to relax and refuel, because once the adrenaline goes from games you notice you’re low on energy in mind and body,” he said.
The Hammer relished the opportunity to read the spiritual guidance book Live No Lies and unwind and feels refreshed ahead of Saturday’s Premier League return at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Johnson enjoyed success last campaign, appearing in 20 matches across all competitions as West Ham qualified for Europe, but it seems this season he is kicking on again.
Since his introduction to the starting line-up, Johnson has helped the Hammers keep two Premier League clean sheets, including the goalless draw with Manchester City in the Carabao Cup which West Ham ultimately won on penalties.
However, despite his growing reputation, Johnson is eager to remain grounded and evade unnecessary distractions.
He explained: “You don’t expect to just come in the team and keep your place, so it’s been great – I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“But obviously I know I’ve not made it yet.
“You’ve got to play quite a few games to know that you can fully compete at this level, and at this stage, I just want to continue improving in myself, because that’ll correlate to the pitch.”
The West Ham Academy graduate has never played for England at youth level, but his performances of late are starting to raise a few eyebrows.
It is well documented that England are well catered for in the right-back position and there is little difference at U21 level, where head coach Lee Carsley also has plenty of options.
However, after the U21s’ UEFA European Championship qualifying defeat in Georgia on Tuesday, Johnson’s prospects of a call-up may have improved.
On his future England prospects, the youngster is hopeful his chance will come if he continues to work hard and focuses on improving his game.
He said: “It’s important to continue on the upwards mountain and kick on because improving as a player is something I’m really looking forward to in the future.
“I don’t want to get distracted – I’m only at the start line of where I want to be.”
West Ham travel to Molineux to face Wolves on Saturday seeking to make it five Premier League wins in a row and extend an unbeaten run away from home that stretches back to mid-April.
Johnson is hopeful the away-day positivity inside the camp will give West Ham the edge in what will likely prove a tricky encounter.
He said: “It’s going to be a tough game – the atmosphere at Molineux is immense, but we love away days.
“We thrive on experiencing other atmospheres – we used to be seen as underdogs, but now you can hear the groans from the opposition fans when we go forward.
“Life’s changed for everyone in this place and it’s a great place to be.”
*Ben Johnson was speaking to Ben Willcocks.