Damien Johnson, who took up the role as coaching assistant in Ian Baraclough’s backroom team last month, says he’s delighted to be back involved with the Northern Ireland senior men’s team.
Johnson, an industrious midfielder in his playing days, won 56 caps in the green shirt between 1999 and 2010 as well as carving out a fine club career with Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City among others.
The Lisburn man, who is currently Blackburn’s First Team Technical Coach and Head of Player Development says he’s relishing a return to the international scene.
“I played for Northern Ireland for nearly 10 years and I really enjoyed that period and some of the best moments of my career came in the Northern Ireland shirt,” the 41-year-old said.
“Obviously, the recent success the team has had had been fantastic to watch so to be back involved is a fantastic opportunity that I’ve been presented with and I’m thankful to Ian Baraclough for offering me it and to Blackburn Rovers for being agreeable. Hopefully it will benefit myself and the club in the long-term.
“I’m always trying to develop myself as a person and as a coach. I know I’ve got a lot to learn and I see this as an opportunity where I can continue my development and hopefully that’s a big positive.
“International football is a completely new experience and I’ll be [seeing] tactical trends and seeing international players first-hand and hopefully there’s a lot I can learn.”
I played for Northern Ireland for nearly 10 years and I really enjoyed that period and some of the best moments of my career came in the Northern Ireland shirt
Johnson, who captained Northern Ireland to victory over Poland in Belfast in 2009 and was part of the team that saw off England in 2005, watched on with delight as Northern Ireland reached the Euros in 2016 and is excited at the prospect of helping the team reach another major tournament.
“The recent success that Michael O’Neill enjoyed has been unprecedented and it’s been fantastic to enjoy as a fan. There’s a real excitement about the Northern Ireland squad back home and I’m delighted to be back involved.
“The Bosnia-Herzegovina game in October is a play-off for the Euros and it’s really exciting to be involved in it and I can’t wait.
“I’ve been speaking with Ian and he hasn’t changed too much in terms of the backroom staff; I’m his only new addition. So, it’s he and I going into an established group that’s been really successful over the past few years and they have really good relationships with the players and with each other so I’m really looking forward to joining them.”