Shocked Johnson desperately wanted to be part of Hawks’ future

Steve Johnson is surplus to requirements at the Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
Steve Johnson is surplus to requirements at the Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
Alex Pike. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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Steve Johnson has admitted he is in ‘shock’ after being axed by the Hawks.

Johnson, along with assistant Adie Aymes, led the Westleigh Park outfit to Blue Square Bet South survival in the wake of Shaun Gale’s departure.

A Joe Dolan goal deep into stoppage-time against Staines kept the club in the division.

Since then a new management team of Stuart Ritchie and Sean New have arrived from AFC Totton.

Johnson was led to believe he still had a part to play at the Hawks in a coaching capacity.

However, after showing Dolan the door in their first act, the new regime has now given Johnson his marching orders.

‘It has come as a bit of a shock if I am totally honest,’ said the Royal Navy man.

‘Up until Wednesday I expected to be back at Westleigh Park in a coaching capacity for the start of next season and I was looking forward to it.

‘Conversations had been very positive about me still being part of the team.

‘At the end of last week we came to a verbal agreement about how I would fit in and shook hands on it.

‘In my eyes, that is as good as a contract.

‘It was very clear I was still going to be part of the team.

‘I went off to Gibraltar to play for the navy veterans at the weekend and returned to find it had all changed.

‘It was a shock when they called me and said they didn’t see me as part of their plans.

‘I am still not clear why they had a change of heart and it hurts massively.’

Johnson, who is a highly-respected figure in the game, admitted taking on the manager’s role was only ever going to be for a short-term period.

Although he has all the attributes to become a successful manager, Johnson is happiest out on the training pitch working with players and coaches.

And that is where he saw his future at Westleigh Park.

For the past five years he has worked as a football development officer with the Football Association (FA) – delivering top Uefa coaching awards.

Johnson enjoyed his brief spell as manager, even though it was under the most intense pressure.

‘It was certainly an experience and the last day of the season will stay with me for the rest of my life,’ he said.

‘We experienced a huge sense of relief and achievement.

‘It is a fantastic club with great supporters and I have been proud to have been a part of it. The contribution of previous manager Shaun Gale is also important and shouldn’t be forgotten either.

‘It is sad things had to end this way because I desperately wanted to be part of the future at the club.

‘They have got a lot of good young players and I predict a bright future for them.’

Hawks vice-chairman Jim Fallon accepts the intention was to include Johnson in the new set-up.

However, he felt there was difficulty in seeing where he would fit in.

‘The board were not sure where they stood,’ said Fallon.

‘The manager took a decision it wasn’t going to work and was unanimously backed by the board.’

n Chris Holland and Jon McDonald are the latest players to leave the Hawks.

Scott Jones, Ollie Palmer and Harvey Whyte have had their contract options taken up, though, while goalkeeper Dan Thomas has penned a new two-year deal with the club.