At Mental Health Awareness Week, Lee Johnson spoke to Sky Sports News about the challenges he has faced since leaving Sunderland in January.
During his time at Sunderland, Johnson won the Papa John Cup and reached third place in the Football League One.
Tell Sky Sports News: “I think everyone goes through different stages of mental health. But I have a great desire and pleasure in my training, such a love for the game, which is worse than not participating.
“I used to manage like hordes of 50-60 people and now I can’t even manage the remote at home.
“I feel very privileged to have had the privilege of coaching what I consider to be a creative club in the country, a great football club with great people and a huge fan base. They are progressing 30 – 40,000 in League One on a regular basis.”
As a player, Johnson has appeared for several clubs in the Football League. Since retiring in 2013, the former midfielder has followed in his father’s footsteps and chose management.
During nine years, Johnson coached Oldham, Barnsley, Bristol City and Sunderland. For the first time in 24 years, the former player-turned-coach has been given time to take a break from the game.
“I think the main characteristic of managers — the hardest thing in the world to do, is to find space to grow, to think, to look from 10,000 feet to what you’ve been doing well, but also to have that balance in life.
“You don’t actually realize how fast you’re moving until you’re back and away from it,” he said. Sky Sports News.
Although he has officially been in the game for 24 years, some would say it was longer, as professional football runs in the Johnson family. His father, Gary Johnson, also played and managed within the Football League.
The two share similar career paths. Both are retired midfielders turned managers who have played and coached multiple teams in the Football League.
Lee Johnson played with his father during periods of his career at Yeovil Town and Bristol City – teams he eventually went on to become manager of.
He pondered the losses his family had taken with his father as head coach. The fluctuation of job security is not a feature to forget. Instead, he uses it to gain experience.
He said, “Early in our lives and certainly in my younger years, it was sometimes like my dad [Gary] Get the sack today, shall we eat?
“During his days at Cambridge United, before that, even in Newmarket Town. I think you’re learning to build that second hand resilience. Now you’re in the coal yard effectively as a manager.”
Family is always on the mind of the former Sunderland manager. Lee Johnson constantly emphasizes his personal experiences growing up in a football home Sky Sports News The importance that his work-life balance plays on his mental health.
As a manager between jobs, Johnson understands the value of this time away from the game. He uses it to strengthen relations with close family and not to miss important milestones in their life.
“I think the first thing is actually investing a little bit of emotional capital in the family. You know, it’s eating up the manager job. My daughter is approaching 14.”
“Effectively for 15 months, you know, 7:00 to 11:00 at night and squeeze it really hard. So the first thing is to strike that balance to make sure the family has enough time.”
What does the future hold? Johnson clearly wants to return to the administration. But this will come after a period of adjustment and a better work-life balance.
If you are affected by mental health issues or would like to speak up, please contact the Samaritans on their toll-free helpline 116123, or Visit the site.