Ben Johnson able to reflect on stunning West Ham rise bookended by international breaks

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It has been quite the month for Ben Johnson at West Ham.

Going into the October international break, the academy graduate was third choice in his natural position at right-back. Since West Ham returned from that break with a win at Everton, Johnson has started all but one game in all competitions, scored his first goal of the season at Aston Villa, and arguably usurped Vladimir Coufal as David Moyes' first choice.

Coufal, who has been one of the first names on the teamsheet and one of Moyes' most reliable charges since his arrival from Slavia Prague this time last year, has returned from a groin injury with a real fight on his hands.

There was some surprise, even from those close to Johnson, that he retained his place against a Liverpool side which had scored 22 goals across their previous six away games before losing at the London Stadium on Sunday. Moyes' faith in the defender was firmly repaid.

The West Ham manager gave Johnson a clear remit against the Reds, telling him to take control of the right hand side defensively and ensure Liverpool could not exert their usual dominance on his flanks. The 21-year-old left the pitch shattered but successful, making the most clearances of any player on the pitch.

No West Ham player made more interceptions while the youngster also had the most touches of any in claret and blue. That showing followed similar outings against Tottenham and Manchester City last month.

Johnson has had to fight for a real chance in his natural position. Coufal's form has been excellent while Ryan Fredericks also provides ample competition. More often the youngster has been sent out on the left side of defence when given a chance and still impressed, though Moyes sees his future at right-back.

Playing down the opposite side, though, is a challenge Johnson relishes and his ability with both feet was evidenced by his superb opening goal at Villa Park, cutting in from the right and firing low into the far corner. It has been clear from a very young age, too. Johnson once stole the show in an Under-14s meeting with Manchester United, scoring two fine volleys, once on his stronger right foot and then his left.

Since that young age, Johnson has approached each and every game with a similar mindset and it is starting to pay dividends.

“My mindset is that it’s a game of football and I’ve been playing since the age of four right the way through until now,” he said ahead of Liverpool. “This is the platform that I’ve been working towards so if I get the chance, I’m going to seize the moment."

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Seize the moment he certainly has, and Moyes now has a real dilemma over who starts at Wolves when they return.

There has been some bafflement that Johnson has not been called into the international fold with the England Under-21s during this international break before that trip to Molinuex.

While England are yet to realise Johnson's quality, he is certainly valued at West Ham, who have the chance to prove as much with the offer of a new contract, with his current deal running to the end of the season. The Hammers hold the option of a two-year extension on the same terms, but his form certainly deserves a fresh and improved contract.

The prospect of a new deal was floated last season and has been discussed among the hierarchy at the London Stadium this season, though no talks have yet taken place with his representatives.

Clubs across the Premier League and Europe have noted his talent though Johnson, a fiercely loyal and religious person, has no desire to leave. A new deal would suit all parties.

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