Preston North End star Daniel Johnson says ‘Don’t call me a No.10’

There has been plenty of talk about Daniel Johnson’s good start to the season – but just don’t call him a No.10.

Johnson after scoring against Stoke
Johnson after scoring against Stoke

Modern labels do not wash with the Preston man who is happy to be described as a midfielder.

The 26-year-old has been operating with much joy further up the pitch than he has done in recent seasons.

Four goals – three of them penalties – and three assists have come from Johnson in the advanced position.

Once upon a time his job description would have been an attacking midfielder.

Nowadays, the ‘10’ tag is attached to anyone who operates off the striker and the man with No.11 on his shirt is not keen on that modern-day terminology.

“I start further up the field and together with the No.9, we start the press off,” said Johnson.

“But you have still got your midfield duties to do, you are still a midfielder.

“You’ve got to track back and do your defensive duty, then you have to get up the pitch.

“Calling it the No.10 is a made-up position for me.

“When I was growing up, you were a keeper, a defender, a midfielder or a striker.

“As a midfielder who have to do everything, that’s the role.

“Over the years I have played as a two in midfield, sometimes in a three.”

Whatever you want to call the position Johnson has been working in, it has suited him.

He’s had a big influence at the top end of the pitch and helped North End get up to seventh place ahead of action resuming after the international break this weekend.

Johnson has always had an eye for goal in his time in a Preston shirt, scoring 35 in total.

Eight of those came in his first three months at the club, then he was top scorer the next season with nine.

“I do enjoy scoring the goals, it is something I know I can do,” Johnson said.

“Scoring is a big part of my game and I enjoy the challenge of trying to find the net.

“I’ve got four so far this season and hopefully there are more to come.

“I have a target for the season which I’m not going to speak about.

“But I’m pleased with what I’ve done so far and long may that continue.”

Johnson’s goals tally is sprinkled with a few from the penalty spot.

He scored at Swansea from the spot last month and a week later, netted two penalties in the win over Sheffield Wednesday.

The Swansea penalty came when Paul Gallagher was also on the pitch.

In the Wednesday game, Gallagher was sat on the bench when the ref twice pointed to the spot.

So how do they decide who takes it if a penalty is awarded and both of them are on the pitch?

Johnson said: “It is a case of whoever fancies it on the day.

“We are the nominated penalty-takers in the team and it will be one of us.

“If we are both on the pitch, I’m sure we both want to take it.

“We will just have a chat and take it from there.

“Gally is a confident penalty-taker and so am I.

“I’m sure at Swansea he wanted to take it but we decided between us that I would take it.

“We are experienced players and we will do what is best for the team.”

The next challenge for Johnson and his Preston team-mates is Saturday’s clash with Brentford at Deepdale.

It has been a fortnight since they last played, the first international break of the season having come between this game and the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest on August 31.

This fixture never tends to be a dull one, as a glance through the record books show.

North End won it 4-3 last season, hanging on in the end after racing into a 3-0 lead early doors.

The campaign before, they lost 3-2, while in the 2016/17 season, Preston were 4-2 winners.

Going further back to the late 1980s, successive Deepdale meetings ended in 5-3 and 4-2 wins for the Lilywhites.

“Brentford are a really good team and they have a great style of play,” said Johnson.

“They’ve been a good team for a good number of years now.

“We’re looking forward to it and I’m sure are too.

“We will concentrate on our approach in the hope we can get the right result from it.

“It’s been good to have had the international break because you need a rest every now and then.

“The schedule in the Championship is a busy one with games coming in quick bursts, so the break gives you a chance to get a breather and get ready for the next batch of games.” A change for Johnson this season is not having his pal Callum Robinson at the club any more.

But he is delighted to see Robinson doing very well in the Premier League with Sheffield United.

Said Johnson: “I speak to Cal very often and I’m buzzing to see him playing where he deserves to be.”