Johnson here to stay as he starts his third Shay stint

EYES ON THE BALL: Sam Johnson in action against FC United last season.                               Picture: Mark Lee
EYES ON THE BALL: Sam Johnson in action against FC United last season. Picture: Mark Lee

Goalkeeper Sam Johnson says first-choice football was the big attraction after joining FC Halifax Town on a permanent basis.

Johnson signed a two-year deal at The Shay after being released by Port Vale, where he came through the youth system and made 26 appearances for the first team, making his debut in October 2012 and not playing for them again following what turned out to be his final appearance in April 2015.

Johnson first joined The Shaymen on loan in November 2015 and made his debut in the 4-2 home win against Dover under Jim Harvey.

He went on to win the FA Trophy with Town at Wembley before starting last season on loan at Gateshead under Neil Aspin.

But he only played 10 times there, and re-joined Halifax midway through last season and replaced Steve Drench as number one keeper under Billy Heath.

In contrast to his lack of opportunity at Port Vale, Johnson made 32 appearances for Halifax in 2015-16 and 22 appearances last season, and now looks set to rack up even more games as first-choice keeper in the upcoming National League campaign.

“That’s been the main attraction for me, and the fact I’ve been here before,” he said.

“Since I was 18 I’ve been sitting on the bench at Port Vale. Halifax has been the only club where I’ve played regularly.

“I’d only played 20 or 30 games by the time I first joined Halifax and I’ve now played over 100 games.

“Playing week in, week out improves you massively, especially as a goalkeeper; your reading of the game, your experience and just knowing what you’re doing in a game.”

Johnson said he “had a few phone calls here and there” but insisted Halifax was his first-choice destination.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing for Halifax,” he said. “The fans have been great to me.

“I wasn’t involved at all last season at Port Vale so I knew (getting released) was coming.”

Johnson will go from full-time to part-time football next season, and would be keen to work with a goalkeeping coach at Halifax, a role currently unoccupied at the Shay.

“I suppose (getting a goalkeeping coach) is something we’ll have to look at. I want to put myself in the best position I can for Halifax, and maybe Billy has someone in mind who could help us out.

“Last season we had Steve Drench who has done some coaching, but I’ve been around long enough to keep myself ticking over anyway.”

Manager Billy Heath has spoken in the past of wanting to bring Johnson out of his shell, and Johnson admits he is a “laid back” character.

“There are things I can improve on,” the 24-year-old said. “Maybe my distribution and starting to come for crosses more often; Billy has had a word with me about that.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with him. His man management is really good.

“Talking with him and knowing that he wants the best for the club was another reason in me joining.”

Johnson still has bitter memories of Halifax’s relegation from the National League but is excited about a return to the division.

He added: “Last time we were in this division we were relegated so there are a few demons to put to bed.

“I don’t want to go through that again so first and foremost we need to stay up.

“But I’m looking forward to it. We’ll be testing ourselves against better teams and better players.”