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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 11:52 GMT
Johnson looks to future

By Jonathan Stevenson

David Johnson
Johnson's last Forest game was a 3-0 FA Cup loss at Chester last year

On 1 July 2006, David Johnson reported for training with his Nottingham Forest team-mates, desperate to put his year-long injury misery behind him.

Just 74 days later, shortly after his 30th birthday, the former Jamaican international striker announced his retirement from the game.

Chronic back problems left Johnson with no alternative but to hang up his boots and put an end to a career that had started 12 years before as an apprentice at Manchester United.

Johnson, a man so popular he even once drew praise from Sir Alex Ferguson, tells BBC Sport how he came to the decision to quit and what the future might hold.


I had a back operation and I was only meant to be out for a couple of months, but the reaction afterwards was not as good as they had hoped for.

We let it go on and go on and I tried a bit of running, but it just never ever seemed to improve.

Born: Kingston, Jamaica, 15 August 1976
Nicknames: Johnno, DJ
Clubs: Man Utd, Bury, Ipswich, Forest, Sheff Wed (loan), Burnley (loan), Sheff Utd (loan)
Big deal: 3m from Ipswich to Forest in 2001
International: Five caps and one goal for Jamaica

I had another scan and a few other nerve blocks and more injections to numb the pain, but that went on for a year when I was only supposed to have two months not playing.

So when I got back in the summer I was raring to go and I thought I had a great chance of getting fully fit.

I was in a race with Scott Dobie to see who could get fit first and we were both doing really well, I was just ahead of him and thought I'd be 100% by Septemer.

I did eight weeks training and the lads came back on 1 July for pre-season. I joined in for a couple of days but I just couldn't reach that standard of fitness.

I tried to train one day and then had to have four days rest and I couldn't get fit because I was in agony. If you can't train you can't play, I knew what the consequences were.


We sat down with the surgeon when I was really struggling and he said it would be in my best interests to stop as I wouldn't be able to reach the level I needed.

It was a huge knock-back, absolutely devastating really.

I can tell you about any other club in League One - just not Forest!

I kept coming to the club after we'd announced it, just trying to reflect on what had happened and discussing things with the manager and coaching staff.

I know I was injured for a while but it still came out of the blue and it was a massive disappointment.

I always thought I would be able to carry on playing until I was 35 or 36, but it wasn't to be in the end so I had to think of what I was going to do next.


I did okay, I think. At the end of the day I'm very happy with what I achieved. I played international football, played at Wembley and in the Premiership and won individual awards.

I had a fantastic time as a player at Forest. It wasn't the best as in winning trophies, but it was the happiest I've been in football.

I was playing at a big club, the fans were always fantastic with me and my family quickly settled into the area, so Nottingham is my home and Forest is my club.

David Johnson with Michael Owen at England Under-21 training in 1997
At England Under-21 training with Michael Owen in December 1997

My favourite goal, or one of them, would have to be for Forest away at Wimbledon in February 2-3 when I scored the winner in a 3-2 victory, in injury time too.

It wasn't a big game necessarily, but we hadn't won away for ages and it was a fabulous atmosphere. I think we had 3,000 fans and they had 300 so it was like a home game, amazing really.

I loved playing for England B against Russia B just before the 1998 World Cup finals, setting up Matthew Le Tissier to complete his hat-trick at the end, that was special, he was a fantastic player.

But the highlight of my career was captaining Forest, to think I've captained such a big club is a great honour.

So too was winning their Player of the Year award. You look at the names who have won it before, the likes of Roy Keane, Stuart Pearce and Des Walker, it's a great feeling.


When I had to quit, I was already halfway through my Level 2 coaching badge and the management team told me to keep going with it.

I started watching the first-team train to learn about the other side of football - I'd never thought about coaching until a year ago but it's really exciting so far.

Bury: 115 apps/23 goals
Ipswich: 158 apps/62 goals
Forest: 165 apps/50 goals
S Wed: Seven apps/two goals
Burnley: Eight apps/five goals

I went out watching games and scouting opponents and then the guys at the academy, John Permberton and Nick Marshall, told me to get down there and see how they do the drills and stuff like that.

Since then I've been helping out with the under-18s and just recently I've been assisting Steve Chettle with the under-12s, doing all sorts really. I even managed a trialist team on Tuesday!

At the moment I work with the academy three or four times a week and hopefully at the end of it I might get a job and stick around the club.

The aim is to keep working in football and hopefully at Forest and I think the goal has to be to get into management at some stage.


Obviously they are doing very well being six points clear and I see the players all the time, but I don't know how they are playing as I've only watched them twice this season.

I can tell you about any other club in League One because of my scouting, just not Forest!

But the players are buzzing and saying it's the best things have been for years, they love the manager and they love playing for him which is the most important thing.

Hopefully the manager will be able to bring in some silverware and then get the club back in the Premiership in a couple of years time because that's where it belongs.

If we can keep this squad together and add a few more if we get promoted this season, we could end up doing what Manchester City did a few years ago and get back-to-back promotions.

We've fallen behind, that much is clear, but things are definitely heading in the right direction.

Back injury ends Johnson career
13 Sep 06 |  Nottm Forest
Forest hit by new Johnson setback
06 Dec 05 |  Nottm Forest
Johnson has injection in his back
21 Nov 05 |  Nottm Forest


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