Lee Johnson will take control of SAFC as the new Head Coach, many people will have already heard of the 39 year old former Bristol City gaffer, who was in charge in that infamous 3-3 draw at Ashton Gate with us in the 2017-18 season when we came from 3-0 down to take a share of the spoils in injury time, but here’s a bit of a whistlestop history of the new man on Wearside.
So, Who Is He?
Lee Johnson is still a fairly young guy and very fresh faced to be in the hot seat, especially with the experience he has had taking the reins of football clubs. However, managerial skills may come as a natural to him and he has football in his blood, after all his dad is Gary Johnson, the former manager of Latvia and Bristol City, he’s also currently in charge of Torquay United. Born in Havering, he started at Arsenal’s youth academy but left after a bust up with a coach, he then moved onto Watford but never broke through into the first team.
At only 19, he started his senior career at Brighton and Hove Albion in 2000 but never made a competitive appearance for The Seagulls, he signed for non-league Yeovil Town, managed by his old man, in the summer of 2001 where he’d enjoy a five year stint, playing 220 times and scoring 28 goals. As a player, Johnson was a central midfielder who could go forward as well as play in a holding role, protecting the defence, he’d be crucial in helping The Glovers reached the Championship. In his time at Huish Park, he would win three consecutive player of the season awards. In 2005, Hearts stumped up £50k to sign the central midfielder and he spent a few months in Edinburgh but fell out of favour when Graham Rix was replaced by Valdas Ivanauskas. In the summer of 2006 Lee Johnson reunited with his father at Bristol City and helped the Robins to promotion to the Championship in the 2006/07 campaign, he would remain at Ashton Gate until 2012, making 189 appearances and scoring 11 goals, however, his time there was broken up by two loan spells, one in 2010 to Derby County, for just a month. Secondly, he joined Chesterfield on a short term loan in August 2012 where he’d make 13 starts. His contract with Bristol City was terminated by mutual consent and joined SPL side Kilmarnock just days later on a free transfer, he’d stay at Rugby Park for just shy of a year before hanging up his boots in the winter of 2013.
Oldham Athletic (35% win percentage)
Shortly after retiring, Lee Johnson was appointed manager of League 1 strugglers Oldham Athletic, his first game was just a day after his appointment at Boundary Park and it was a 3-0 thrashing of Hartlepool United. At the age of just 31, this made him the youngest manager in the Football League. He steered The Latics to safety that season and guided his side to victories against high flying Bury and his former club, Yeovil Town who which were managed by his father, Gary! Promotion chasing Yeovil eventually got to the Championship via the play-offs but it was the first time a father had faced his some on the touchline since the early 1970s. His first full season in charge of Oldham went well and he received plenty praise from all walks of footballing life, notably for playing high quality, attacking football, he was also well known for having a strong defence, especially with now England international, James Tarkowski at centre half. That 2013-14 campaign saw Oldham finish 15th in League 1 after a 10 game unbeaten run to end the season which left them just 2 points shy of a top half finish. The 2014-15 season, Johnson carried on the momentum and were sitting in 10th place at the midway point which led to interest from other clubs. That interest came from Barnsley and he was appointed as the new gaffer at Oakwell in February 2015.
Barnsley (39.2% win percentage)
Barnsley were 16th when he took over but despite that, he led them on a fantastic run which resulted in an 8th place finish, just missing out on the play-off positions. His first full season saw a mixed performance, with The Tykes sitting in 22nd in November but by the time he left, they were exactly mid-table in League 1. During his time in South Yorkshire he also led Barnsley to the Football League Trophy final (what you and I would know as the Checkatrade Trophy or whatever it’s called now!) but never actually oversaw the final at Wembley as he had already agreed to join Championship strugglers Bristol City as their new manager in an attempt to save them from the drop. The Tykes did go on to win the Football League Trophy that year under the guidance of former Sunderland youth star Paul Heckingbottom.
Bristol City (38.7% win percentage)
His return to Ashton Gate was widely welcomed by City fans and he worked his magic there and cruised to an eighteenth place finish, finishing a massive 12 points above the danger zone. His first full campaign in charge saw the loan signing of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea who notched 26 times in the Championship season for The Robins but they were still dragged into the relegation dogfight. However, Johnson kept them up again in 2016/17, this time ending the season in 17th, just 3 points above the drop. He became unpopular and many fans wanted him dismissed after a poor finish in the previous campaign, but he remained in charge for the 2017-18 season, the season which saw SAFC’s disastrous Championship effort ending as the basement club, however, Lee Johnson’s fortunes were the opposite to The Lads, he was awarded Manager of the Month early on and broke Bristol City’s transfer record to sign striker Famara Diédhiou. Their fine form led them to the semi finals of the League Cup, dumping out José Mourinho’s Manchester United on the way. They were defeated 5-3 on aggregate to Manchester City but Pep Guardiola praised Johnson’s style of play, his team’s relentlessness and attacking football during the two legs. A slip towards the end of the season saw Johnson’s men slide from 5th place, out of the play-off positions to a final resting place of 8th, just missing out on the chance to play for a Premier League spot. He signed a four year extension at Aston Gate in the summer of 2019 but was dismissed a year later in July 2020 after a poor run of form, the first time he’d been sacked from a managerial job, he was at the time, the longest serving Championship manager.