He only spent a short time with us on loan, but we had no doubt that Bradley Johnson was on a path to a bright career at the time. Five appearances is all he squeezed in for us before he returned to Northampton Town. That was enough, however, to show his talent and potential; the young midfielder (at the time) looking assured when faced with the toughest Conference defences. It can’t be huge coincidence either that, from those five matches, Boro’ won four and drew one. Alas, we had little hope of holding onto him.
Boro’ wasn’t to be Johnson’s first rodeo in non-league. The 2005-6 campaign saw him spend time at Ebbsfleet United – then known as Gravesend & Northfleet. Both spells were part of the midfielder’s ongoing development at Sixfields; Johnson signing for the Cobblers having broken into the first team at Cambridge United before that. The Us discovered him playing at Waltham Forest in the Isthmian League, where the lad had found himself after leaving the youth set-up at Arsenal at the tender age of 15-years-old.
Bradley Johnson: After Boro’
As expected, Johnson went on to have an impressive career in the Premier League and Football League. At first, he continued to impress himself upon the consciousness at Sixfields. And that seemed to go a long way to what would be a pretty big move in 2008; Leeds United moving in and snapping up the midfielder for £250,000. That marked the start of a three-year stay at Elland Road. Mind you, it wasn’t always a happy one – finding himself on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion during the 2008-9 season, as well as battling for favour when back at Leeds.
In 2011, Johnson signed for Norwich City and made the step up to the Premier League. The Canaries would stay in the top flight for the next three successive seasons. And the midfielder enjoyed a solid run of form at the club. Indeed, he’d also help them regain their Premier League status in 2015. Yet, all things must pass and – despite a return to the top flight – the midfielder left the club shortly after the start of the 2015-6 campaign; Derby County parting with £6m to secure his services.
Johnson spent four years with the Rams, before moving on again in 2019; this time to Blackburn Rovers. His stay at Ewood Park lasted three years during the Covid era, then making his way south to MK Dons in 2022 at the end of his three-year contract. Alas, he’d only spend one year at the Dons. The club were relegated to League Two – and Johnson was one of the players to be released from the club. Not the most glorious end to a spell with a club by anyone’s stretch. But it did open up the chance for the midfielder to return to Derby County as player-coach.