'I've learned a lot' - George Johnston's tough League One schooling with Whites

·2-min read
George Johnston says he has improved as a defender as the season wore on in League One
George Johnston says he has improved as a defender as the season wore on in League One

GEORGE Johnston feels more “streetwise” after working hard in a first real taste of senior football at Wanderers.

The former Liverpool and Feyenoord defender featured 48 times for the Whites in all competitions – defying even his own expectations for his first season at the UniBol.

And while he accepts at times he has had to learn on the job, Johnston believes he will be better prepared for life in League One next term.

Voted Bolton’s young player of the year and boasting more minutes on the pitch than anyone else in Ian Evatt’s squad, Johnston feels he has improved dramatically.

“I have learned a lot,” he said. “This is the first season I have played week-in, week-out, and with fans. When I was playing in Holland it was during lockdown.

“They have all been new experiences for me – home games have been really different to away games, which is something I have had to get used to. The derby days, I have not had those before.

“I have tried to absorb everything I can and working on my weaknesses and continuing to do what I think I am good at.”

Johnston hopes to add a bit more muscle in the gym this summer to help him cope with the physical demands of an often-bruising division.

Experience has also taught him to pick his battles more wisely.

“Earlier in the season I was not as streetwise,” he said. “There were players who are obviously bigger than me and used to the physical battle. But I think in the second half of the season I have become more used to it. “You can’t win every ball you go for but sometimes it is about how you win it, and I have to be smarter than the attacker.

“The gaffer played Premier League, so did Pete (Atherton), and Hirdy (Sam Hird) played in the Championship so they have got a wealth of experience and I am trying to take as much information as I can.”

Johnston likes to analyse his own game, using the club’s in-house app to watch over clips of his performances the day after a game.

Wanderers supply the players with plenty of technical data to use if they see fit, and the young defender says he mixes the statistical approach with advice from Evatt and his coaching staff as he tries to improve elements of his game.

“The gaffer wants us to be progressive so that is what I aim for,” he said. “My stats for that are quite high. But then obviously the other side I might not win as many aerial duels as someone like Rico (Ricardo Santos) but I think that is something I have to work on.

“I still want to work on the progressive stuff but I think the physical side is something I have dealt with better as the season has gone on.”

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