Why Daniel Johnson always wanted to stay with Preston North End

Both manager and player have admitted it was something of a saga.

And Daniel Johnson’s contract talks certainly sparked speculation over the midfielder’s Deepdale future in recent months.

But having extended his contract until the summer of 2021 the 25-year-old insists the target of talks with the Preston North End hierarchy was always to stay put.

Johnson has been a mainstay with the Lilywhites since joining the club from Aston Villa in January 2015 and passed 150 PNE appearances in the League Cup win over Leeds on Tuesday night.

Daniel Johnson has signed an extended contract at Deepdale

“Of course you’ve got to consider other options when you hear or see things,” said the Jamaican, who scored his 25th North End goal from the penalty spot in the 2-0 victory at Elland Road.

“But my 100 per cent focus was always staying.

“There was never a thought of going elsewhere.

“I spoke with the manager a lot throughout the whole thing and we never once had a disagreement about anything.

The midfielder marked his 150th PNE appearance in style with a goal from the penalty spot inside the opening two minutes of the League Cup win at Leeds on Tuesday night

“Signing a new contract was always the main objective.

“For me it was just a case of getting it done because I’m really happy here and had no issues with the manager, the players or the staff.”

As he was entering the final year of his previous deal, Johnson admits that everything that was going on off the pitch did affect him as he looked to secure his future.

“I wanted to get it out of the way,” he said.

DJ scores from the penalty spot against Leeds on Tuesday night

“It was an on-going thing going back and forth with talks and negotiations. It was bothering me.

“If you’ve not been put in that situation before you will never understand how it can affect you.

“Sitting here now I can tell you that it does. I’m just glad that it got wrapped up and it’s done and I can just focus on playing now. I’m delighted.”

PNE’s No.11 has certainly became a familiar face at the club.

Johnson says talks with Alex Neil about his future were always open and amicable

He arrived more than three-and-a-half years ago as a 22-year-old with limited senior experience and feels he has grown up in Lancashire, in more ways than one.

“I think this is my fourth season,” Johnson said.

“Nothing’s changed really. I’m still enjoying it and still happy to be here.

“Preston feels like home, especially since having my daughter.

“Becoming a family man changes a lot of things.

“I’m adapting to it and really enjoying it.”

It has been a frustrating start to the new campaign though, a calf injury and competition for places meaning his game-time has been limited.

Johnson knows though that others are in a more unfortunate position than him at the moment.

“It’s not just that I’ve not been playing but I’ve had a few injuries,” he said.

“Going into the season and then when it started I’ve had the same problem.

“Whenever you get an injury, it could be halfway through the season or with a month to go, it’s difficult.

“That’s been tough for me personally but we’re without the likes of Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin, who are going to be a massive miss.

“They are going through a difficult time with longer-term injuries and as a team we’ve just got to stick together and make sure everyone is on board even when they’re not involved.”

Johnson was one of seven changes made by Alex Neil for the League Cup win at Leeds.

The midfielder scored from the spot less than two minutes in and then was a key figure as North End made round three despite playing for 10 men for more than an hour after Ryan Ledson’s red card.

By his own admission, a real shift was needed to make the next stage.

“Tuesday was a different kind of game, going down to 10 men, but the boys stuck together and we got the second goal which was really crucial,” Johnson said. 
“We had a chat at half-time, the manager said a few things, and we kept it tight and saw the game out.

“We were all pretty tired after though.

“I don’t think it matters where you play on the pitch when you go down to 10 men, everyone’s got to work to grind a result out. On Wednesday I was literally bed-bound. I didn’t move all day.

“I’m not too sure if that’s what the rest of the lads did after the game but I couldn’t move!”

Extreme fatigue or not, it was the perfect way for Johnson to mark 150 games for the club.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t know until I saw it,” he said. “It’s always good to recognise stuff like that because it shows you how far you’ve come.

“I’ve still got a long way to go but it did put a smile on my face.”

Like the other players who got some welcome game-time against the early Championship leaders in midweek, Johnson is hoping that the performance in West Yorkshire will help him make a breakthrough this season.

“All the boys will hope they’ve got themselves in the manager’s thinking,” he said. “We’ve got a really good group at the moment.

“The competition for places is really high. Every day in training we push each other. Some of us who played on Tuesday haven’t had much of an opportunity and a few of the boys that have came on and played their part.

“It’s a really well gelled together group. We just want the best for each other.

“Whatever team the manager puts out on Saturday, we’ll just go and get the job done.”

Back-to-back defeats in the league came before the win at Leeds and Johnson is now hoping they can kick on in their bread and butter of the Championship, with Bolton at Deepdale on Saturday.

“It’s been a weird start to the season really,” he said. “I feel like we’ve not been far off in the games we’ve not got results in.

“It’s just little minor things that have gone wrong in the games.

“It’s not been a bad start and there’s a lot more to come from us.

“We’ve just got to find our rhythm and once we find that we’ll kick on and start picking more points up.”