Johnston: “It’s definitely eight years I’ll never forget as long as I live”
As welsh domestic footballers go, not many have a finer pedigree than Michael Johnston.
From three consecutive Welsh Cup wins to playing the likes of Hungary, Azerbaijan and Turkey at a international youth level, Johnston boasts a wealth of experience which he has now brought to Welsh National League Premier Division side Brickfield Rangers.
He took the time out for a in interview with YClwbPelDroed, where we talked through his fascinating career – which started at the age of just 10.
“I was playing for Everton from the age of 10-12 then was released and moved to Tranmere a couple of weeks later. From there things just got better and better, offered a YTS at the age of 14 which took me to the age of 19 then signed a two year professional contract after that.
Unfortunately, things didn’t materialise from there and when I was released, I signed for Bangor.”
The majority of Johnston’s career has been spent at Bangor City, where he would go on to become a pivotal player in one the club’s greatest ever squads. Unsuprisingly, he can only recount the positives from his time as a Citizen.
Nothing but good times there. Ever since I signed back in 2008, I was welcomed with open arms.
Football wise, what can I say… 3 Welsh Cup triumphs on the run with a further two finals reached, 1 league title, 16 European appearances, a play off win, a great escape from relegation and of course the honour of leading the club as club captain for two years.
I achieved great things there and it is definitely eight years that I will never forget for as long as I live.
Johnston has experienced one of the pinnacles of Welsh domestic football having won the Welsh Cup three times during his career. He remembers the finals as magical moments and times of great celebration for Bangor City., but they weren’t all straight forward.
He described the first as “unbelievable” against Llanelli, in a whirlwind of a match, as Llanelli fought hard with 10 men. Contrastingly, the next medal came in a game where they felt in total control throughout against Aberystwyth.
The last against Port Talbot is one that particularly stands out for Johnston though.
The most nail bitting of them all. Port Talbot. Basically, our season depended on this, I think we finished about 5th this year and Port Talbot had already qualified for Europe through the league. I think that the Port Talbot one is the one that sticks out the most as it was the one that lead to the European win the next year which then put us on the path for league success.
However, many would argue that being part of Bangor City’s title winning squad is by far his greatest achievement. A key cog in the Citizens’ side that defeated TNS on the final day, Johnston and co will be go down as the side that defeated the odds in taking the title on that famous day at Farrar Road. Johnston too holds fond memories of that momentous day.
Feeling the buzz around the place on that day was amazing. Knowing that TNS only needed the point and we needed all three meant that we had absolutely nothing to lose. I can’t really remember the noise when we scored as it was a shear moment of elation for us all on the pitch. But come the final whistle, WOW. I just remember hearing the whistle then the roar. I couldn’t believe it, I was frozen then all of a sudden my brother came sprinting over to me, on the pitch and grabbed me. Saying “You F*****g did it”. Then it sunk in.
Johnston also had the honour to represent Wales at age grade level. A member of the Under-17 and 19 sides, Johnston came close to playing in the Under-17 European championships in France, and despite the disappointment, remembers it as a great experience.
U17, we had to go through two groups. I don’t think that the managers at the time, Ian Rush and Mark Aizlewood, would believe how close we would actually come. We were drawn in a really tough group of, Greece, Portugal and Israel. We only needed a point against Greece in the final game to qualify for the actual Championships in France. We lead 1-0 but Greece came back to beat us 2-1 it was absolutely heartbreaking but we could definitely hold our heads high.
Despite failing to make the European Championships in France with Wales Under-17s, the player had the chance to feature in Europe during his time with Bangor under Neville Powell. With 16 appearances under his belt, Johnston has travelled to Finland, Denmark, Moldova, Iceland and Madeira to name a few, and only has positive memories of the experience.
However, their games against Icelandic side HJK Helsinki stand out as some of the toughest he’s played in on their travels.
Well with a 13-0 agg score, I would have to say HJK Helsinki. I think a close second is definitely FC Midtjylland. Just for the sheer athleticism and technical ability they possessed.
After years with Bangor, Johnston has featured for Caernarfon but recently joined Brickfield Rangers in the summer. Numerous factors led to Johnston dropping down the divisions, but was impressed by the club’s vision.
When I was released by Caernarfon, I needed to reassess my options. I couldn’t go to Welsh Prem as the window was shut and didn’t have much on offer from Cymru Alliance as it wasn’t common knowledge I was going. I spoke to Wardy and then Dave Norman and the vision of the club seemed really good.
Whilst his career is still going strong, Johnston is thinking further ahead already as he plans for life after football. However, nothing has been decided just yet in terms of what the future holds for Johnston.
Think it’s still in the balance I’m still debating doing coaching badges to keep my hand in the gamec but then I think I have lost a lot of time with family through football, but I’m still deciding.
Michael Johnston one-to-eleven
Danny Taylor, James Brewerton, Dave Morley, Sam Hart.
Tom Dix, Nicky Ward, Callum Morris, Sion Edwards
Les Davies and Allan Bull