Saturday 14th February 2004

Johns enjoying Erith Town job

Having recovered from a major car accident, former Charlton Athletic, Millwall and QPR goalkeeper Nicky Johns has returned to football this season as assistant manager of Erith Town in the Go Travel Kent League.

Johns, 46, is working under manager Willie O'Sullivan and he is enjoying the involvement a great deal.

Johns said: "Football is in my blood. I had a fabulous time in my professional career. It spanned 17 years from the time I signed as a youngster at Millwall and I think I played just under 500 professional games.

"It was in the days when there was lots of enjoyment and not all the pressure that the players face now. We didn't earn fortunes but we earned what was relevant to our day. The players before me were on even less. The game has moved on now and the current players are rewarded accordingly.

"So joining Erith Town is a real breath of fresh air for me. I am not able to coach because of the accident. That is a shame because I am qualified to UEFA 'A' standard. But I am not physically fit enough to be shouting and getting excited.

"I am here at Erith to help Willie get organised and to fill in the team sheet for him on match days. After being in football all my life, it is great to be in a dressing room again with all the banter and to be able to put things right on the field of play.

"When the matches are on, Willie is in the dug-out while I stay up in the stand. I can see more things from there and I communicate with Willie by walkie-talkie if we want to make tactical changes. It has worked very well for us."

Despite not being able to get too animated on matchdays, Johns is happy with his role at Erith Town. And despite having played at the highest level, he is greatly impressed by the standards in the Kent League.

"We have a fabulous stadium at Erith," he said. "It is a splendid sports centre arena and I think the facilities here are on par with some European clubs. I can remember going on tour in my professional career and playing at stadiums of a similar standard all round Europe.

"We are having a decent season in the Kent League and I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of football in the league. I was originally of the opinion that most sides would just hump the ball forward, but there are some good teams about who can play a bit.

"We have a very young side with some promising players. Willie O'Sullivan is one of the best people I have ever worked with in football. He has a charisma with the players and a good knowledge of the game."

Erith have made good progress in the Kent League this season. And Johns is confident that the team can continue to improve.

"We don't have a playing budget and I think that helps at times because it means that players want to play for the club. So we work with the youngsters and - with our best wishes - hopefully they can push on from here and play at a higher level. We are a step on the ladder for young players. If we can show them how top play, controlling and passing the ball, then they will have a great chance of playing higher up in future years.

"We are currently mid-table but we are looking for a top six finish this season. And we could have a big effect on the outcome of the championship as we have to play high-flying VCD Athletic and Maidstone United at home in the last few games."


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