Edwards reveals Hatters teenager wasn't fazed when told he was coming on to face Haaland and co

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Youngster makes his fifth senior appearance during FA Cup tie with Manchester City

Hatters boss Rob Edwards revealed that young defender Joe Johnson hadn't been fazed in the slightest when learning he was going on to face one of the best sides in world football during Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth round clash against Manchester City.

The recently turned 18-year-old had been named on the bench for the tie due to the Hatters suffering a number of defensive injuries in recent weeks that saw both Mads Andersen and Dan Potts unavailable. With eight minutes of the first half to go, centre half Amari’i Bell then pulled up, and although first teamer Gabe Osho looked like he was about to come on, it was Johnson that Edwards turned to once the former Reading youngster stated he was still feeling the efforts of the knock that saw Reece Burke take his place in the starting line-up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ahead of the game, Johnson had only made four senior outings in his career, two of them coming in the Championship last season, as this term he started the 1-0 Carabao Cup loss at Exeter City in September, also coming on in the 2-1 win over Everton in the previous round of the competition. It was no ordinary side that the teenager was heading on to face either, City possessing one of the most lethal strikers on the planet in Erling Haaland, who had already scored twice to put Pep Guardiola’s team 2-0 to the good. Throw in the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and £53m signing from Wolves Matheus Nunes, plus Bernardo Silva and Belgian international Jeremy Doku, then it was without doubt a baptism of fire for the youngster up against some global superstars.

He immediately found out the levels required, Haaland able to time his run to perfection and race away from him to complete his hat-trick, but from that moment onwards, Johnson certainly didn’t let anyone down, as although City scored a further three times in the second period to run out 6-2 winners, he was shifted out to the left wingback role, making two key passes and finishing with an 86.7 percent pass success rate. The defender also won two tackles and added one clearance as asked for his reaction when being told to get ready, Edwards said: “He’s hard to read young Joe, he’s just straight and serious, go on, no problem

"I don’t think much fazes him, like it didn’t at Goodison Park in the last round against Everton. I thought he was brilliant, for a young, just turned 18-year-old lad to come into that, he was brilliant. He’s got a really good future, a really good mentality and another one, a really brave young player. He took responsibility and showed some really good things."

Johnson, who moved to Luton in 2020 having started his youth career with Arsenal, has been one of the major success stories of Town’s academy, part of the England squad that played in the U17 World Cup Finals in Indonesia late last year. In midweek, he had been joined on the bench by Zack Nelson and Axel Piesold for the game against City, while with Jayden Luker impressing out on loan at National League side Woking, discussing the Hatters’ up and coming talents, Edwards added: “It’s amazing, we’ve got a great academy, brilliant people working here. We’ve got some good young players that are going to get some opportunities to play. He’s (Johnson) one, Zack’s one that’s been involved a lot, and his time will come.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Responding to Johnson’s outing on Twitter, @callumLtfc said: “Definitely should start Saturday if AB is injured.” @ltfc_xw10: “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him, really hope he ends up being a permanent starter for us.” @HatterStew: “We seemed to shift him about a little bit last night. Looked very assured when put to LWB. Good with both feet. Anyone know what his natural / favoured position is?” @AndyW_KO: “Solid performance, Joe - under what you might say was extreme pressure. Wonderful prospect.” @Hitesh_78_: “Looked assured at the level. Nice to see him make the step up. With the injuries he will play a major part in the run in.” While @KnightleyDave added: “Superb performance.”