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Wednesday 11 Oct 2023
Carl Johnston: captaining U21s a special feeling

He may be just 21 years old but even at such a young age Carl Johnston says he’s enjoying the responsibility of captaining both club and country.

The talented defender has been developing his leadership skills having been handed the armband for Northern Ireland U21s and the EFL League One side Fleetwood Town in recent weeks – and he’s relishing every moment.

The dream is to go out and represent my country at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park

Johnston is currently in Baku where the U21s are preparing to take on their Azerbaijan counterparts in a UEFA Euro U21 2025 qualifier. It’s the first of two games in this international window with Serbia the opposition at Mourneview Park on Tuesday 17 October (7:30pm).

The Ballysillan man was new boss Tommy Wright’s pick as skipper when the current U21 campaign kicked off last month and he recently led out Lee Johnson’s Fleetwood against Burton Albion.


“Captaining the 21s was a special feeling and something I’ve always strived for to try and captain the team,” he said. “I was thankful when the gaffer (Tommy Wright) put his trust in me and I was grateful to lead the lads out in the last two games.

“Ever since I went to Fleetwood, six years ago, I’ve loved every minute of it. They are a club that give you an opportunity and they’ve shown that with a lot of young players who have gone across.

“To get the armband was a special feeling and I’ve been privileged to lead the lads out and represent the club. It was a proud moment for me and my family.”

The dream for Johnston is to represent Northern Ireland at senior level and he says his time playing in the international pathway has stood him in good stead as he aims to achieve his ambition.

“I loved the experience of playing for Northern Ireland at such a young age and being able to travel all around Europe. All those experiences have been vital to me and where I’ve got to so far in my career.

“The dream is to go out and represent my country at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. My family, I know would be there. They’ll be proud and buzzing. They all love Northern Ireland; they love going and watching them and supporting them. That will be a big day for me and all my family when that day comes.”