A CATCH UP WITH...Andy Johnson

Ex-Albion midfielder lifts the lid on life at The Hawthorns

NAME: Andy Johnson
AGE: 41
Time at Albion: 2001-2006

First impressions:
Funnily enough I came with Forest to The Hawthorns a couple of years before I joined. It was the last game of the season and we were going for the title - the atmosphere was brilliant. Back then I used to love playing at Everton for the same reason as it was a stadium with character. Ask any player and they'll tell you that they love playing at stadiums like that. Albion fans still have it. I came up to a game a few weeks ago and went to the Wagon and Horses after the game, full of Albion fans. Had a brilliant time with them.

Best match:
I looked at this question and didn't know where to start. Bradford was brilliant, but then so was Palace and then that local derby against Wolves. I don't know my best, but...

Least favourite game:
...this one would definitely be the Battle of Bramall Lane. What went on that day was disgusting and gave football a bad name, irrespective of what went on with myself and Georges (Santos). Nobody remembers it for the brilliant goals by Dobes (Scott Dobie) and Derek (McInnes), which is a shame. Mind you, that game was so important to us eventually going up. Of all the games played that season I still get asked about this one the most.

Team-mate you'd most like to go for a drink with?
Anyone from that 2002 squad - we got on so well. We didn't need to work on team spirit, we were mates who played football. I do remember we went out after promotion and Igor, who never spoke, came back from the bar with a tray of white spirits. No idea what they were, but it totally finished us off. I think he just carried on  I'm not sure I'd trust Igor with any more drinks after that. 

(Johnson reacts as Igor Balis arrives with another tray of drinks...)

Who did you share a room with - any annoying habits?
I shared with a few, mainly Jono Greening, Sean Gregan and Derek McInnes. They were all great. Greegs was a proper northerner - he didn't want to sleep. The two I wouldn't share with were Houtly and Phil Gilchrist - they just sat there playing on computer games. Not for me.

A funny thing happened when...?
Oh, where to start with this? We went on pre-season to Portugal once where we had these little 'houses', rather than hotel rooms. I ended up sharing with Jono, with Paul Robinson and Geoff Horsfield next door. One night we played Scrabble -  it was a night we weren't allowed out - and Jono got all excited with his letters. Anyway, it got to his turn and he laid down the tiles 'F...U...G'. We were all looking at him, waiting for the rest of the letters. But he was done with it. He thought he was putting down 'THUG'. That was Jono for you. That was the same trip where Jono reckoned there were two suns - one in England, one abroad, because it was so hot. Bless him. Jono's a legend really and one of my best mates. 

The strangest team-talk you've heard?
Before the Crystal Palace match, Gary Megson sat us all down and started telling us about how privileged we were and challenged us to leave the dressing room as First Division players and return as Premier League players.  He delivered this really passionate speech telling us to remember the people we were playing for ...and then the door opened. All of our families, wives and girlfriends walked in. I'm emotional thinking about it now. Our dressing room was like a volcano - we couldn't wait to get out and finish the job off. There was no way we were going to lose that game.

Football now, what would you change?
Football is very privileged job to have. Imagine being a kid knowing you'll grow up and be paid to play football, have people singing your name, wanting you to win. That's why I don't understand people who don't make the most of what they have. Social media is another thing. I was out all the time when I played - I'd have stood no chance if Twitter had been around 15 years ago. But the one thing I've noticed is that in my day you used to hide the fact you were injured, you didn't want anyone to see you were hurt. Now you see players rolling around at the slightest touch. What's that all about?

Three words to describe your Albion experience: Different flipping* class

(* this word might have been slightly different...)