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How Johnston got a helping hand from ex-Man Utd star Stam

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

How Johnston got a helping hand from ex-Man Utd star Stam 12891846

George Johnston has revealed the helping hand former Manchester United treble winner Jaap Stam gave his football career.

The Wanderers defender was signed by Stam at Feyenoord in August 2019, and though he only spent a few months under his wing, Johnston says he had a big impact.

“It’s the most tactical environment I have ever been in,” he told The Bolton News.

“He trained with us sometimes and he tackled as hard in the training sessions as he did when he played. For me, being the same position, it was great because he’d come and talk to me, give me tips, and he was just big on playing football like the gaffer here.

“On the pitch his standards were very high but off it, I was a young player just over there and didn’t understand the language so he would often come to see how I was doing, ask about family, he was very good.”

Johnston played at Feyenoord for 18 months before coming back to England for a loan spell in League One with Wigan Athletic.

Stam’s successor at De Kuip was a very different character – the vastly experienced former Holland, Zenit St Petersburg, Sunderland and Rangers boss, Dick Advocaat.

“It was a great schooling,” Johnston said. “Advocaat was more old school, didn’t necessarily play the same type of football and was more results-driven. He did say he was retiring but I think he has a job now. I know he wanted to go out the best way he could.

“They were two completely different styles.”

Before moving to Holland, Johnston had spent 11 years with Liverpool, graduating through the academy and going on to captain the Reds’ Under-23s side.

“I don’t think I could have had a better education from a young age,” said the defender, who worked under current Blackpool boss in his last few years at Melwood.

Johnston got a closer look at the young Liverpool players when they came to the UniBol in the Papa John’s Trophy recently, and his advice to the Anfield stars of the future is to try and strike out on loan as quickly as they can.

“When I was in their position I just wanted to go out on loan,” he said. “It can be difficult when you are a kid coming into a men’s environment but, on saying that, I think they did well here.

“Technically they were very good and caused us a few problems before we ran over them in the end. They need to keep going and get senior football as quickly as possible.

“When I was at Liverpool I’d sit there and think ‘I can go out and do well’ so if an opportunity comes up then yeah, why not? But then if an opportunity comes up in England then I would definitely recommend going out and playing in a first team.

“It is just about keeping your head down and waiting for that opportunity to get into a first team environment at a young age because it did me well.”

Johnston is also hoping that success with Wanderers in the next couple of years could catch the eye of Scotland’s scouts.

The defender, whose grandfather is from Dumfries, won 10 caps at Under-21 level and also played for the Scot’s Under-18s side. “When I was younger I went up there a couple of times and then when I was coming to the end at Liverpool I went on a camp with Scotland and did quite well,” he said.

“When I went to Feyenoord it was the Euro qualifiers for the Under-21s. I did quite well in the first two games and became a bit of a mainstay in the team.

“We didn’t quite reach the finals but it was a great experience.

“Getting the senior call is a hope and an ambition for me. They have got quite a few good centre-backs at the moment but it is certainly something I can drive towards.

“It is something I am looking at.”


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