Wigan Athletic star aims to 'Stam' his authority!
George Johnston’s already shown during his short Wigan Athletic career that he likes a tackle.
Not surprising, really, given the on-loan Feyenoord defender’s schooling in the game.
Having come through the ranks at Liverpool, the Manchester-born ace opted to move to Holland in 2019 at the age of 20.
And the chance to work with one of the greatest – and roughest – defenders of his generation.
“When I first went out there, the manager was Jaap Stam, and I took as much as I could from working with him,” Johnston revealed.
“It was perfect with him playing in my position, because he’d help with things like positioning, awareness on the pitch, what to do in one-v-one situations.
“He wanted to play out from the back, the standard was very technical, and obviously that brought my game on as well.
“When he left, Dick Advocaat came in, so that’s two massive figures in the game who I’ve had the chance to play under.
“Although I’ve not played as many games as I would have liked, I’ve no regrets about having done it.
"There’s a lot of things I can take forward with me for the rest of my career.”
Out of contract at Feyenoord this summer, Johnston is hoping his spell with Latics puts him in the shop window for a new challenge – either here or elsewhere.
“Whatever happens I’m looking at a new chapter next season,” he admitted.
“But it’s not something I’ve looked at too much at the moment.
“All I can do is focus on the last 10 games, prepare as well as I can, play as well as I can, and see where that makes me.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here, and we’ll see what happens. It’s exactly what I wanted when I came here.
"I wanted to play as many games as possible, and I’ve done that in recent weeks.
“Obviously things are looking a lot brighter off the field, the club is going in the right direction, and we’ve got to make sure we mirror that on the pitch.”
Johnston’s versatility will certainly stand him in good stead, with his ability to cover central midfield if needed - which even saw him get on the scoresheet against MK Dons earlier this month!
“I’m just happy to be on the pitch, wherever the gaffer wants me to job a job,” he said.
“Personally I think my best position is at the back, that’s where I prefer and have played most of my games.
“But playing in midfield does me no harm, it broadens my horizons and makes me a better player.
"I’m not used to being so far forward, and it was nice to get on the scoresheet the other week!”
Next up for Latics is today’s visit of play-off chasing Ipswich, with Paul Cook returning to the DW for the first time since leaving last July.
Johnston, though, says Latics will be treating the game no differently to any other – with the same three points up for grabs.
“I think it would be a big game for us regardless of who we were playing or who their manager is,” he recognised.
“Obviously the gaffer knows Paul Cook well from having previously worked with him, so he’ll know more than anyone what to expect.
“He’s worked us hard this week on the training ground, telling us what they’re likely to throw at us, so we’ll be prepared probably a bit more than any other game.
"On our day, we’re confident we can beat any team in this league, so we’re going into the game with a very positive mindset.
“We’ve had a full week’s preparation which we haven’t had for a few weeks.”
Johnston has also drawn a firm line under last weekend’s defeat at Accrington, which boss Richardson suggested was down to a collective dip in desire and work-rate.
“I don’t really think there was an overriding reason for that,” Johnston added.
“I just think it was one of those days you sometimes get, after three very good performances leading in.
“Sometimes you just get one of those days in a long season, and all you can do is put it behind you, sweep it under the carpet as quickly as possible...and try and win the next one.”