Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Pied Piper' Johnson ready to work his magic

Bristol City boss Lee Johnson is hoping to upset the odds and add Manchester City to his growing list of Premier League scalps in the Carabao Cup Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Bristol City boss Lee Johnson is hoping to upset the odds and add Manchester City to his growing list of Premier League scalps in the Carabao Cup Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Sam Dean

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson has said the impact of his side's shock victory over Manchester United has left him feeling like the "Pied Piper" around the city as he prepares to face Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final.

Bristol City have defeated Premier League opponents Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and United in a memorable run to this stage of the competition, and Johnson said there has been a noticeable "feel-good factor" around the city.

"It has been brilliant," he said. "I was picking my little girl up from school and the teachers came out, with all the kids. I'm like the Pied Piper around the playground.

"It's good to give back, and the legacy part of it is that hopefully it brings in new fans. The young kids who came to that United game will hopefully have been hooked."

The difficulty of facing the runaway Premier League leaders over two legs has not been lost on Johnson, who said this City team is one of the country's best ever club sides.


"I think they are up there with the best that England has ever seen," he said. "Obviously there have been some great teams in the past, with Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and the class of '92, and before that the great Liverpool sides, but I think as time goes on it is more than likely this team will etch itself in history as one of the best teams that have ever graced the pitches of England.

"At the end of the day, they are humans. They have got world class players in every position, and they have got world class players behind that and they have got world class players in their U-23s as well, so it will be real challenge for us and we have competed really well against the top teams this year.

"Obviously, to beat a side like Manchester United, and to beat them fairly - there was no real fluke involved - gives us confidence to go into what is 180 minutes, minimum."

The 36-year-old manager revealed before the meeting with United that he had bought a £450 bottle of wine in the hope of sharing a glass with Jose Mourinho after the game, but said the United manager "shot off" after the defeat.

Asked if he will instead offer the bottle to Guardiola, Johnson said: "Sadly my goalkeeping coach (David Coles) drank it, so I wasn't too pleased! Maybe I'll get him a bottle of hooch or something.

"Forget about the wine. The real message is for someone like myself to get moments with these top guys and have a chat.

"Jose was fantastic and I'm sure Pep Guardiola will be the same. I think they appreciate that young guys like myself are hungry to learn."

Johnson praised Guardiola for the speed with which he has been able to "fast-track" his work at Manchester City, adding: "The real challenge is going to Oldham and trying to do it on a £900,000-a-year budget… but I am sure he would do that as well."


Bristol City midfielder Korey Smith, who scored the dramatic late winner against United, said there has been an "unbelievable" reaction in Bristol to that 2-1 victory.

"I heard people had me on the top of their Christmas tree," he laughed. "It was a great moment for the city as a whole, it brought everyone together and everyone will always remember that moment in the future. It was special.

"This game is over two legs so it's a little bit different, but as long as we can get a result and bring it back to Ashton Gate with a good scoreline we will have every chance."

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan has warned tonight's visitors that City are in no mood to ease up, despite being overwhelming favourites.

"They have beaten (Manchester) United, so of course it will be a tough challenge but we know we are the favourites," said the 27-year-old midfielder.

"We play the first leg here at home, so, of course, we want to win that game. We want to win both games."

Irish Independent

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