West Ham academy graduate Ben Johnson has been with the club for over a decade and made his first-team debut against Manchester City last season.
He’s been an integral part of the Hammers’ U23s side who were top of the Premier League 2’s second division and the only side in the league unbeaten when it was halted.
With the likes of Jeremy Ngakia and Pablo Zabaleta now departed, Johnson could yet get more opportunities to impress for the senior side at right back in the near future. Speaking with the club website in a wide-ranging interview, the 20-year-old referenced an unexpected muse he’s loved watching of late.
What did he say?
When asked by WHUFC about who his inspirations were, Johnson replied: “My footballing idol growing up, like it was for a lot of millennials, was Thierry Henry. We all know what he could do – and that’s anything, really! Score goals, dribbles, create goals.”
“More recently, I loved watching Alphonso Davies for Bayern Munich against Chelsea – the way he’s been playing recently, he’s a flying machine at left-back,” added the 20-year-old.
Given he is a converted winger, Johnson’s choice of Henry is an understandable one, with the Frenchman lighting up the Premier League for Arsenal at the turn of the millennium, scoring 175 top-flight goals for the Gunners. However, his selection of Davies is more intriguing. The Canadian international, born in a Ghanaian refugee camp, has been experiencing a breakthrough campaign in Bavaria, flying up and down the left touchline leading to Bayern legend Thomas Muller to compare him to the roadrunner.
Davies is also a converted winger who has been forced to slot in amongst the defence but adapted his game to become a regular for the German champions, making 29 appearances in the Bundesliga this term. Perhaps, given they occupy the same role and are only one year apart, Johnson sees some of himself in Davies and hopes he can make the same impact on the Hammers’ right flank.
This season his U23 performances with the Irons have been phenomenal, in seven appearances they’ve kept five clean sheets and conceded a meagre three goals. The table-topping youth side have dropped just two points when Johnson has featured, leading to him making the bench for every match since the Premier League’s resumption.
David Moyes is yet to allow Johnson to add to his one Premier League appearance, but with West Ham short of options at right-back, the 20-year-old academy graduate is knocking on the managers’ door, and he might not have to wait long.