As starts to jobs go, the 33-year-old’s opening few weeks at Oakwell can definitely be bracketed in the dream category, having presided over three successive victories with not so much as a goal conceded. Problems, what problems?
All told, Barnsley – if you include caretaker-manager Mark Burton’s final two games at the helm – have recorded five consecutive wins after a desperate 5-1 reverse at Crawley Town in a Valentine’s Day massacre on February 14, when they were down among the dead men in 19th place in the League One table.
The Reds players are certainly getting into Johnson’s good books, quite literally, more especially his defence, who have not conceded a goal in 457 minutes, over seven-and-a-half hours of football.
Johnson, the club’s youngest manager since Allan Clarke took over in 1978, is recording it all in precise detail with the meticulous head coach having revealed he is keeping a diary to record information about all of his new charges on a daily basis.
It is not exactly a case of ‘big brother is watching you’, more collating as many details about his playing staff as he can to try and provide himself with a working database on the strengths and weaknesses of his squad in double-quick time.
It is not just statistics either, but individual details about what he feels makes his players tick, with good habits in training invariably leading to positive outcomes on a match day.
So far, the ticks have massively outweighed the minus points.
Johnson, whose side are in firm play-off contention with seven-and-a-half weeks of the regular season remaining, said: “Every day is a chance to impress me in training. I keep a diary, so I make sure I log who the best players are in training every day and the worst – who trained well and who hasn’t.
“That’s important because it gives you something to look back on and if you can see that consistency in somebody being the best player every day or three times a week, then it means they are ready and you have just got to give them the confidence by just playing them.”
Johnson first started compiling a diary at Oldham and it includes entries on opposition teams – which will represent a valuable resource tool in the weeks ahead – as well as players’ performances on a match day.
That attention to detail is something that helped win over the Oakwell board ahead of offering him the head coach position, with his specific 100-day plan for the Reds impressing them in particular.
As for the diary, well it is most definitely staying. “Some managers do it and I think it’s important. I started doing it about 12 to 14 months ago and it is amazing the things you look back on.
“Even just reviewing games tactically with a diary – don’t forget I am a young manager and I still have an awful lot to learn – makes you learn.
“Sometimes, just looking back on your thoughts is important. Like when my side previously played Walsall. I looked back at when we played them last time and my own report on the match and where I made mistakes and where I feel I could affect their shape.
“I try and give my players marks and a little comment after each game, so at least I have got that log. If the same player is making the same mistakes every week, it tells you a story. It is just a reference point really for me to go back and look at.”