Johnson felt he owed his father a performance and that penalty he rattled in off the bar was probably for him. In October 1996, Johnson Snr came over to watch his boy in action only to spend part of the time sitting in the stands with him. “We were playing Bury away and he was landing that morning,” Johnson said. “He arrived at Heathrow and my wife Vanessa picked him up. But there was terrible traffic on the M1 and they were held up for three-and-a-half hours. They missed the first half and then I was sent off in the second for a straight red. I was then suspended, so he was absolutely fuming because he had come over for a month on his own to see me play.”
Johnson also spent some time on the sidelines at the start of the unforgettable 1998/99 season. He missed the first four games in all competitions after rupturing his thigh in pre-season. He quickly made up for lost time, announcing his return in style, scoring two against Bristol City, including that goal on the volley.
“It was the first time I ever scored two goals in a game and the volley was probably my all-time favourite,” he said. “It made it look better coming off the bar.” When he can strike a ball like that, it was slightly surprising to note that Johnson only scored three more goals that season, something he puts down to perhaps being asked to sit a bit deeper. “I wasn't pushing forward like I used to,” he said.
However, what is interesting to document is that four of his five goals that season came inside the first 10 minutes, suggesting he liked to come flying out of the traps. “I didn't know that stat but I know I always wanted to get myself into the game early on,” he said. “I always wanted to make a few tackles early on to get on the front foot. I wanted to get a few touches and perhaps I wanted to get a few shots away, too.”