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Career ladder: Leon Johnson

22 October 2012

Name: Leon Johnson
Position: Defender
Date of Birth: 10/05/1981
Club: Wycombe Wanderers
Previous Clubs: Southend United, Gillingham.

What do you remember about your first ever match?
My first ever memory of playing football was playing for my club side when I was a youngster - we drew 2-2. I remember it clearly; I scored a goal and I set up the other one, I played up front in those days. My first football memory is certainly a good memory.

Who was your childhood hero?
When I was younger I liked watching John Barnes play. As I got older I liked Zinedine Zidane. To me, he's probably the best player to play the game but obviously Lionel Messi is rivaling that now. If I was in the playground pretending to be anyone, though, it was John Barnes.

When did you realise you had a chance to progress in the game? 
It was probably when I got to about 14 or 15, when I was at Southend United, travelling to the away games with the youth side. I played one or two games and realised that, even though the other guys were bigger and stronger, I wasn't out of my depth whenever I played. I suppose I knew then that I could perhaps go on to become a professional. It was something that I always wanted, though, and it has turned into a reality.

Which coach has had the biggest influence on your career?
There's plenty. Peter Taylor has always been very good for me. My youth team coach, Peter Trevivian, was brilliant for me and he has probably had the biggest influence on my career, as well as Ricky Duncan. They gave me the grounding and the base to progress into professional football. Then there was David Webb, he was the one that gave me the chance to play first-team football on a regular basis.

There's other names, too, like Mick Gooding, who gave me my League debut, and Alan Houghton, he took me to Southend in the first place.

It's all coming back to me now. It was Alan first, then when I progressed to the youth team it was Peter Trevivian and Ricky Duncan that gave me my grounding. Then it was Mick who gave me my League debut and David who gave me the chance to play League football on a consistent basis.

I could go on but they are the main guys who set up my career, as such, giving me the basis to go on and play, and play for a long time.

Later on in my career, I would certainly point to Peter Taylor. He was at Southend back then, working around Southend, and he has always kept an eye on me and stayed in touch with me. Even today, I could phone him for advice. He's always been on the other end of the phone for me.

What did you spend your first wage packet on?
Probably just some clothes and CDs.

Does your squad number have a special meaning to you?
Not really. I've had a million and one different squad numbers throughout my career but now I'm a defender I do like to have the number six, but that's just preference.

Who did you last swap shirts with?
The last time I properly swapped shirts, and they took mine, was years ago when I was at Gillingham and we played Leeds United and it was with Mark Viduka.

He took mine and the lads were saying after, 'what does he want your shirt for? He's probably washing the car with it on Sunday morning'.

How has the game changed for the better since you became a pro?
The players are a lot quicker and fitter - that side of things has definitely advanced. Players are lot more aware of nutrition, too. When I first started playing it was non-existent but now you're given advice on food, before and after games.

If you could have coached yourself when you were a teenager, what advice would you have passed on?
Confidence is key. Believe in your ability a lot more.

If you stay in the game at the end of your career, what will you do? a) Manager b) Coach c) Scout d) Physio e) Pundit?
I'd love to be a manager one day but at the same time it's a very difficult profession to get in to. You have to be very lucky. To get an interview you have to have a pretty amazing career, most of the jobs will go to ex-Premier League players because they have been at the top of the game. If someone who had been in the Premier League and I went for a job, I may be better qualified and better for the job but I doubt I'll get it because he will come with a name.

I like the managerial side but I know it will hard to get in to.

What do you want to be best remembered for at the end of your career?
Someone who wanted to play every game and always gave 100 per cent, win lose or draw. And someone who always tried to play with a smile on their face.

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