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‘Planning essential for when it is safe to return’ – Johnson

As lockdown continues, so too does the hard work for Lee Johnson as he, his staff and players do all they can to be prepared for football’s eventual return.

When that will be exactly remains unclear but despite being confined to the walls of his home, Johnson explains how he has used his time effectively, both in terms of work as well as family time.

He was speaking on the latest episode of Bristol Sport TV.

“It’s very difficult [to plan], it’s so unprecedented that all we can do is be fluid,” the Robins head coach explained. “The lads have been great so far, willing to do anything required of them on and off the pitch. We’ve worked extremely hard to get to his point and now there’s so much uncertainty. We are looking and searching for that light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.”

Johnson goes into more detail, describing that fluidity and scenarios that may be actioned. He said: “We have to plan for every eventuality and that is key, be that returning to training in small numbers or take over a hotel for six weeks with games behind closed doors, so for us it’s about being fluid to cover all bases and get as much early information as possible so as to inform the players and planning for nine very important games.

“Everyone wants football to come back and everyone is desperate to return to normal life.”

In their own homes, the players have worked to their individual programmes to keep themselves fit and active, something discussed by City’s Head of Performance Andy Rolls on the Robins Nest Podcast.

Therefore Johnson has no doubts about the players’ fitness abilities once they are able to reunite and return to Failand to prepare for matches.

“We have a fit, young, athletic group and I trust them,” he continued. “All the programmes and work they have done will have them back as fit as a fiddle. It will be about getting them reintroduced to the ball, those partnerships and getting the cohesion going as quickly as possible.

“There will be winners and losers out of this unfortunate pandemic but there are reasons to be optimistic with players like Benik Afobe who after seven months out has had two or three months to get ahead of scheme, the likes of (Tomas) Kalas who had been struggling with a knee injury and we expect to have him back.

“It’s not only the name on the teamsheet but it’s the human being at their best both mentally and physically. We always talk about pre-season and how important they are and every player who has a solid pre-season, it gives them a base. It lockdown hopefully enables us to have this three-four week ‘pre-season’ to get everyone in tip-top shape, and I’m moving into this last nine games with a very optimistic and positive mindset.”

And as well as enjoying family time, home schooling his daughter and hosting regular bingo games with the grandparents, another area he has had to concentrate on has been the younger players.

Johnson said: "One of the things we’ve been working on is a large analytical document for the Academy: on terminology, philosophy and exactly the way we work," these being key for when some of the younger age groups move up to Failand on completion of the new training ground.

"It’s important moving forward because particularly with the way we want to go and develop our young players and see them get into the first team, coupled by having younger players at the training ground earlier, it enables them to bed in as quickly as possible.

"I can assure fans that it’s very exciting in terms of the young players we have backed up throughout the age groups. There’s a lot of good work from a lot of good people coming to fruition and hopefully we will see the fruits of that in the first team very soon."

Lee Johnson on Bristol Sport TV: Watch in full