In an interview with the Coventry Telegraph this week, Reda Johnson revealed that he had been stripped of the captaincy by Steven Pressley due to the colour of his urine. A seemingly draconian punishment for something that appears irrelevant to the business of being the captain of the football club.
For those that are unaware though, hydration is taken very seriously in football nowadays and most Premier League sides do not allow players to participate in training if not hydrated to the right levels. The relevant quote in full displays a rather disconcertingly blasé attitude to looking after his body as a professional athlete. “He [Steven Pressley] is not happy with the way I do things like my wee is not white, it’s yellow because I don’t drink enough water, or I don’t do enough in the gym. It’s things like that he wants his captain to do and give a good example.”
For a player who has suffered from chronic injury issues during his career, you would imagine that small things that being correctly hydrated would be important to him if he is serious about progressing from League One level of football. Not long ago Reda Johnson was a regular in a Championship team and was not far away from playing Premier League football. Thanks in part to his poor injury record, he is now playing for a lower mid-table League One side.
The lower leagues are littered with talented players with poor injury records. Take Hartlepool’s Matthew Bates who a few years ago was a regular with Middlesbrough at Championship level and was drawing admiring glances from Premier League teams. Due to his inability to stay fit for extended periods, Bates is playing for team struggling in League Two. If Reda Johnson doesn’t take his fitness issues seriously, managers may well decide that he is a drain on resources and his slide down the divisions will continue apace.
It has been a season of extremes for Johnson, on one side his competitiveness and leadership give the team a dimension that they lack otherwise. On the other side is the reckless, ‘act first, think later’, side to his game. It was his needless head-jerk towards Lyle Taylor against Scunthorpe that cost the team the chance to move into third place and killed the momentum of the season. It was also his heat of the moment decision to take that penalty against Worcester City that helped cause one of the club’s most embarrassing defeats in its history.
When I think back to that moment in stoppage time of the first-half in the Worcester City cup tie, that quote from This Is Spinal Tap always comes to mind. In the run up to that penalty Reda Johnson had been charging around without discipline looking to drag the team forward. It arguably allowed the team to bring James Maddison into a dangerous position in the final third which then led to the penalty.
That penalty miss has been remembered as a moment of incredible stupidity from Reda Johnson, a man who could count the number of spot-kicks taken in his career on one hand. It’s such a fine line though, had he scored, the atmosphere would have changed completely and much more than had any other player scored that penalty.
In that brief period of that game Johnson had been supplying the team with the energy and commitment that it had been lacking in the opening 40 minutes of the game. Just two weeks prior, it was that exactly that kind of bravado that had led the team to a stirring comeback against Peterborough United. It has almost been forgotten that it was his two mistakes that led to the team being in a position where such a comeback was needed. Football’s a fickle game and much of what is remembered about performances is dependent upon the result.
We return to the old Carl Baker debate of recent years, is it better to have a player who can produce a moment of brilliance amidst an otherwise poor display or a more consistent one who may not be able to reach the same heights? Games of football are decided by key moments and the margins between victory and defeat are as fine as that between stupid and clever. We saw during Reda Johnson’s absence from the team that we struggle to force those key moments in our favour.
The fact that Reda Johnson was unavailable for that spell though was exactly because of his recklessness and inability to stay fit. Currently he remains part of the team, unlike Simeon Jackson, because he can back-up his faults with generally positive performances on the pitch. You would imagine though that Pressley may already be looking at life after Reda Johnson. A player that does not take his fitness seriously is not the personality Pressley wants as a leader in the dressing room and the longer he stays, the more dependent on him for leadership we may become.
We seem obsessed with the great individual at this football club but Pressley’s mission is to build the great collective. He may keep us out of danger for the coming season but if we have serious aspirations of progressing as a football club, Reda Johnson either needs to become more dependable or be moved out of this football club.