Ben Johnson: We’re setting a precedent for every game
West Ham United defender Ben Johnson has certainly proven the young man for the big occasion.
In the two-and-a-half seasons since the 21-year-old full-back made a bright debut at Manchester City as a teenager, Johnson has enjoyed further starts at the Etihad Stadium, Old Trafford and St James’ Park in the Premier League, to name but a few.
Named Young Hammer of the Year last season for his outstanding contributions to the first-team squad, Johnson enjoyed a fine first start this season in the 1-0 win over Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.
It seemed poetic, therefore, that Johnson would make his European competition debut on another huge occasion: West Ham United’s first-ever home game in the UEFA Europa League proper, Thursday’s 2-0 win over Rapid Vienna under the London Stadium lights…
It’s a new experience for us, playing in the Europa League, so obviously the nerves were there, but we stuck it out.
We did incredibly well defensively and we got two good goals. That’s what you need, quick bits of quality, and I thought we did that well.
There were times when we didn’t pass it as well as we wanted to, but that’s football sometimes – you’re going to be thrown curveballs.
They were not going to come here just to sit off us, they were going to come here to get the three points, so every game’s going to be a tough game in this competition.
We’re just buzzing to have won the first game in front of our home fans in a Europa League group-stage fixture – it’s wonderful.
I think the way we’ve been playing all season sets a precedent for every game.
We go into every game the same: we want to win, we want to blow teams away, whereas in the past we might have just tried to nick a result, or go for a win but with the wrong set-up.
Our set-up from the back is correct, and right through the midfield and attack, we’ve got some wonderful players. We’ve got quality all over the pitch, so we’re going confident and going strong into every game.
From set-pieces, teams know how dangerous we are – I think we hit the post three times on Thursday.
In open play, we created less, but you just need that one bit of quality and thankfully we scored two goals.
Said Benrahma, at the end, put the game to bed, and that’s what we needed at the end, just to settle down a bit.
I just feel amazing playing for West Ham United in Europe!
Obviously coming through the Academy, there are times you might feel fearful to play, but I’ve worked at this and I’ve been preparing myself for it my whole young career. To come out here is just a blessing and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
That’s why I wanted to come into the game and just try to stamp my authority on it and give my all: because not many opportunities come around like this for players. It’s just an amazing feeling.
This badge is special to me, of course. I’ve been here since the age of seven, so to play for the Club that I’ve always played for is wonderful. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs on the way, but that’s what you need, because now is the business end for me.
Everything you do is scrutinised, so you need to make sure you’re prepared mentally more than anything. I’m just looking to enjoy my football.
Since my debut, everything which comes now is a bonus, so I’m not trying to be too high or be too low, I’m just trying to keep my head focused and prepare for the next game I’m selected for.
As for Brentford on Sunday, as usual we’ll go for them - we’ll go for the kill.
Of course we know Brentford are a good side. We played against them in pre-season [a 1-0 win for West Ham], and they gave us a few problems. Obviously, that was a pre-season game and players might have been missing, but we know how they like to play.
They’ve asserted themselves brilliantly in the Premier League so they’re going to shock a couple of teams. We’re just looking to analyse them and stamp our authority on them.
Especially playing at home, it’s a new London derby for us – we’ve not played them much before – so it’s going to be a great game.