Daniel Johnson: PNE have made me a better player

Daniel Johnson is congratulated on his goal at Ipswich.

Daniel Johnson is congratulated on his goal at Ipswich.

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Daniel Johnson says he never had any doubts about putting pen to paper on a new contract with Preston North End.

The former Aston Villa man is now signed up at Deepdale until 2019 after a new three-year-deal with the club was confirmed on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Jamaican is delighted to be staying put, believing Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson is someone who makes him realise his potential.

Johnson said: “I’ve been working with the players and the manager for more than a year now and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“I think he’s a really good manager and he gets the best out of me.

“No doubt, my first thought was always signing here.”

The attacking midfielder was entering the final year of his contract having joined in January 2015 and says getting his future sorted is a weight off his mind.

Johnson said: “I’ve been wanting this to get sorted for a very long time now and it’s finally done.

“It takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders now and I can concentrate on just playing football.

“It’s been a really good 18 months and more.

“I’ve really enjoyed every single minute.

“Hopefully now I can just kick on and continue the season well.”

Johnson, 23, believes he is going from strength to strength with his next aim reaching double figures in terms of goals having topped PNE’s charts with nine last season.

He said: “One hundred per cent I’ve improved.

“He’s (Grayson) brought a lot to my game that I never thought I had.

“There’s always more of come though and always room to improve.

“I’ve set myself some goals this season and I want to achieve them.

“I do want to get into double figures this season. I didn’t manage it last season which was one of my aims.

“I was one off and it’s definitely a target this season.”

One attraction of North End and something that keeps players at the club is the team spirit, something which Johnson believes has helped North End through a patchy start to the season.

He said: “It’s brilliant.

“We’ve not got off to the best of starts this season and we’ve come in every single day smiling and buzzing.

“It’s only the start of the season and we’ve still got a long way to go.

“It just shows the togetherness this football club has got between the players and the staff.”

A run of three defeats to kick off the new Championship season was ended in style with a 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers last Saturday.

Johnson said: “It was a great team performance. We went down there with a job to do, stop them playing and doing what we do, and that’s exactly what we did.

“We got the second goal and I felt we were comfortable after that.”

It was a game that saw Johnson return to a midfield three having also featured in the centre of a flat four across the middle this season.

The Kingston-born playmaker had more freedom to roam in behind a front two of Jermaine Beckford and Callum Robinson, something he relished.

He said: “I enjoy playing in the three because it gives me more licence to get forward, get closer to the striker and get closer to the goal in fact.

“With any system it doesn’t really matter, you’ve just got to adjust as the game’s going on.

“I do prefer to play in a three though.”

An improved showing from Johnson also coincided with the reintroduction of John Welsh at the base of the midfield.

The experienced tackler’s display not only underlined what a key role he can play for North End but also the options Grayson has at his disposal.

Johnson said: “John came into the team and did really well.

“For me, he was probably man of the match. He’s so good at what he does and for me he gives me the freedom to go forward knowing he’s always there behind me.

“As for the other lads who haven’t been into the team it really shows that you have to be ready when called upon.

“John hadn’t really been in the team over the last couple of weeks and he got called upon when he wasn’t really expecting it but did a great job.”

Next up for North End is a long trip down to Ipswich, a side who Johnson scored twice against last season, including in the 1-1 draw at Portman Road in January.

The Jamaican is unconcerned about any issues there may be between manager Mick McCarthy and the fans, the experienced boss having expressed his frustrations with a largely four-letter outburst after the 1-1 draw with Norwich.

Johnson said: “I managed to score home and away last season.

“We want to go down there and cause an upset and I’m sure that we will.

“We’ve not really spoken about any issues there might be there, we’re just concentrating on what we’re going to do.

“We’ve shown what we can do and hopefully we can just kick on.”