Why Bristol City boss and man of the moment Lee Johnson should avoid Stoke City

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 11 January 2018, 10:01

It’s approaching a week since Stoke City sacked Mark Hughes in the aftermath of the club’s humiliating FA Cup third round defeat to League Two side Coventry City.

While it’s important for clubs to take their time in recruiting a new boss, it quickly became evident that once the Coates family wielded the axe on the Welshman they had absolutely no idea who they wanted to replace Hughes at the Bet365 Stadium.

This is reflected in the wide variety of gaffers that have been linked with the Premier League post, ranging from talented young English bosses Gary Rowett and Graham Potter to experienced members of the old guard in Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce, while Quique Flores, Rafa Benitez and Nigel Pearson have all been mentioned as possible replacements.

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Over the last couple of days Stoke have ruled out Slaven Bilic, Potter has not been approached, Rowett has ended speculation by signing a new contract with Derby, while former Watford boss Sanchez has emerged as a major contender alongside O’Neill at the summit of the market.

But now a fresh face has appeared in the betting, Lee Johnson, who falls into the “talented young English bosses” category. Below we take a look at the manager of the moment, and why he would be wise to swat away the advances of Stoke should they come calling.

Manager of the Moment

Johnson is very much the Football League manager of the moment. His Bristol City side are currently challenging for a first ever promotion to the Premier League - he can become the first Robins boss since Alan Dicks (1975/76) to lead the club into the top-flight - while last month he sent shockwaves around the footballing landscape after masterminding a stunning victory over Jose Mourinho’s Man Utd in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.

Then, on Tuesday, Johnson was seconds away from recording a prized draw away to all-conquering Man City, only for Sergio Aguero to pop up in injury time to give Pep Guardiola’s men a 2-1 lead heading into the second-leg of their semi-final tie.

Johnson and Guardiola embraced at the final whistle, with the former revealing the contents of their conversation:

“Pep Guardiola said to me we've played better than the majority of the Premier League teams that come to Manchester City.”

This is true, in terms of the performance and the result itself, with Everton the only one of City's 16 opponents this season to return home from the Etihad undefeated.

A lot can change in a year

Johnson, son of Cheltenham boss Gary, has undoubtedly evolved as a manager in the past year. The 36-year-old survived the sack at this stage last season, before admirably getting disgruntled fans back on board by firstly steering the club to Championship safety, then mounting a Premier League promotion push this season.

Let’s not forget the club’s stunning showings in the League Cup - the Robins have so far beaten four top-flight clubs - a platform, which in the words of Johnson himself, has “shown the world what Bristol City are about."

Johnson should stay put for now

Johnson’s rise in the managerial ladder means it’s only inevitable that he’s linked with a switch to the Premier League dining table. But while he’ll no doubt be tempted by a swift move upstairs, it’s difficult to envision him leaving an exciting Bristol City side on the up to a struggling Stoke outfit void of confidence and direction.

After all there is every chance that these teams could trade leagues next season.

It seems that Johnson is destined for the top-flight, but should he leave for Stoke and then suffer relegation he’d undo all of his hard work and progress over the last few years. Meanwhile, should he propel Bristol City into the top-flight he’d be transformed into one of the most in-demand young English gaffers in the game.

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