LEE JOHNSON has revealed how a desire to return to “my club” was just too good an opportunity to turn down and why he left Barnsley.
The 34-year-old quit Oakwell just 36 hours or so after leading the Reds to Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
Johnson felt unable to turn down the lure of Bristol City, who he made 199 appearances for as a player. His family also remained in the West Country during his time in south Yorkshire.
“In a sense, it is disappointing to have to leave (Barnsley) on that note,” said Johnson, when speaking to the media in Bristol today.
“But when Bristol City come calling - and they are my clubs - it is impossible to turn down that opportunity.”
In the absence of Johnson, Tommy Wright and Paul Heckingbottom took charge of Sunday’s 3-0 triumph at home to Bury.
Asked if Wright, his assistant at both Oakwell and Oldham Athletic, might follow him to Ashton Gate, Johnson added: “Tommy is contracted to Barnsley.
“He is a fantastic assistant manager but we have some really good staff here.
John (Pemberton, in temporary charge following Steve Cotterill’s dismissal) has a very good reputation in football.
Not only as a football man but as a human being. I have had brief conversations in the past and we have spoken more at length (this weekend). We are very aligned in the way we are thinking.”
Johnson’s decision to leave Oakwell before his first anniversary of taking charge has upset supporters.
Despite that, the new Robins head coach has spoken warmly about his time in Yorkshire and revealed that previous offers of jobs had been turned down.
“In my time at Barnsley, I have resisted other job offers and opportunities,” said Johnson in a statement released via the Reds website at the same time as he was speaking to the media in Bristol.
“However, I have a deep affinity with Bristol City. When they came in for me, I couldn’t turn them down.
“My family are based in Bristol and I have many friends and connections there from my career as a City player. I appreciate the timing isn’t perfect.
“I would like to thank Patrick Cryne (Barnsley owner) for his unwavering support and friendship. He has taught me a lot about football and life.
I look forward to meeting up again with Patrick in April, as his guest for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley.”