Sunshine break has recharged Johnson for run-in

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HAVING suffered relegation earlier in his career with Plymouth Argyle, Reda Johnson has no intention of going through such gut-wrenching agony again any time soon.

Not after what he admits has been the worst season of his life, a stress fracture of the foot and a vitamin D deficiency having combined to restrict the Owls defender to just 13 appearances this term.

“Relegation is not nice,” said the 25-year-old when asked by the Yorkshire Post about the 2009-10 season that ended with Johnson and Plymouth being relegated from the Championship along with Sheffield Wednesday.

“It was my first year in England so to be relegated was very frustrating. It was a hard time for everyone at Plymouth. The Sheffield Wednesday players will have had the same feeling that season.

“Relegation made it hard to go on holiday in the summer. Then, when we came back in for pre-season, it was a new league to think about. League One is somewhere you don’t enjoy.

“There are a lot of not very nice grounds and it can be hard for players to go down. That is why we have to stay in this league this season.

“We all worked so hard last season to get out of League One. It was a very, very good season for everyone and I am sure if we stay in this division this year then it will be the same emotion as Wycombe (whom the Owls beat on the final day to clinch automatic promotion).”

As for Johnson’s season, it has been something of a mixed bag with injury and those vitamin deficiency problems being interspersed with some impressive results and goals.

For the record, the Marseille-born defender’s 13 appearances have brought eight wins, three draws and just two defeats – an impressive record, by any means.

Throw in the five times Johnson has found the net this term and it is clear that, when fit, the defender has been an important member of Dave Jones’s team.

Even so, when asked about this season ahead of today’s derby at Hillsborough, Johnson replied: “It has been my worst in football. I had a stress fracture of the foot but my vitamin levels were very low as well

“I didn’t know it was a problem, but once the stress fracture happened I realised it was the case. Maybe it is to do with me being in the sun and now living here. It is a big difference, but since it happening to me, I have now heard of African players who need more vitamins and more sun. I was able to do something about it. I feel good now.”

Johnson’s cure involved a spell in the sun, meaning he returned to the Wednesday fold fresh and raring to go.

Considering Wednesday’s precarious position and the fact the run-in is littered with clashes against fellow strugglers, Johnson’s presence in the backline could prove a big factor in the club’s favour.

Mind, had anyone said to Johnson when he first moved to Hillsborough in January, 2011, that more than two years on he would be comfortable playing left-back, the defender admits he would have been highly sceptical.

“Left-back was not my position before coming to Sheffield Wednesday,” explained Johnson with a laugh. “When Gary Megson put me at left-back a year-and-a-half ago, I was thinking, ‘What is he doing?’

“But now I am pleased with it, so if he is reading this then, ‘Thank you, Gary’. He moved me there against Yeovil (in September, 2011).

“It was my second game ever as a left-back. I had played there once in France and at half-time, the manager moved me to centre-back. I am just glad Yeovil went better.

“Now, people ask me if I am a centre-half and I say, ‘No, I am not, I am a defender’. It is good for my career as, when the manager needs me, I can now play left-back as well as my first position.”

Wednesday go into today’s eagerly-anticipated derby with Barnsley embroiled in trouble.

Sitting just one place and one point above the relegation zone, Jones’s men are a point behind the Reds and eager to complete a league double that would give their own safety hopes a major lift.

It will not, however, be easy with Barnsley having taken 23 points from 11 games since David Flitcroft replaced Keith Hill.

Johnson said: “Easter brings two big games (Wednesday travel to Bristol City on Monday), starting with Barnsley. It is a derby and you always want to win them.

“Barnsley have been on a good run but so have we. We beat Leicester recently and that gave us confidence. We are also at home, so will have the fans with us. There are no excuses.”

After facing Barnsley and Sean O’Driscoll’s Robins over the Easter weekend, Wednesday’s run-in will include meetings with fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Ipswich Town and Peterborough United.

With all those clubs far from safe and at least one team likely to go down this term with a 50-plus points tally, the coming five weeks promise a host of captivating twists and turns.

Johnson added: “We will have to fight and battle, starting with Barnsley. We have a lot to play for and I always like that.

“Some teams are in the middle (of the table) and that is it. But we wake up every morning and know what we have to do.

“The mood is very, very good. Everyone is enjoying their football and all ready for Barnsley. We can’t wait to play them.”

On the fight to escape an instant return to League One, a division the Owls fought so hard to exit last season with a great run-in towards the end of the campaign, Johnson admitted: “No one wants to go back.

“I have been promoted once and relegated once in my career. I know which one is nicer and this year I want to stay in the division. The Championship is very tough this season. I had played here before with Plymouth, but it was a bit easier compared to now. You only have to look at the Championship and the results every week to see how tough it is.

“If we do stay up, we will be as proud as we were last season after winning promotion.

“It is not easy, as teams like Blackburn and Wolves have shown since coming down from the Premier League. They may go down again.

“That’s why I am proud of the team and what we have done.”

richard.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk