Latics boss lauds strength of squad
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 11 February 2014
ATHLETIC have a stronger squad now than at any other time during manager Lee Johnson’s reign, he says.
Despite losing James Tarkowski to Brentford, Johnson believes his team is well equipped for success going into the final third of the season.
Gary Harkins, David Worrall, Adam Lockwood, James Wilson and Jon Stead have slotted in as new signings; John Paul Kissock is ready to have an impact, and the club rebuffed a big-money approach for Korey Smith.
Though an emergency loan move to bring Tarkowski back to the club from Brentford has hit the buffers, Johnson hopes to maintain an upturn in fortunes at MK Dons on Saturday.
“It is important we keep picking up points. In the last four games, we have picked up seven points which isn’t too bad,” said Johnson.
“We know that our squad we have now is the best since I have been here, so I am pleased with that and we have to continue progressing. We have a tough game at MK Dons now, but it is one that suits us.”
The manager has been handed a fresh long-term deal at Boundary Park and the same is true of his first permanent signing, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Though the striker’s first-team chances are currently not helped by Stead’s presence, Johnson sees the teenager — whose contract extension keeps him at the club at least until the summer of 2015, as a valuable long-term proposition.
“He has earned it,” said Johnson of Clarke-Harris’s new deal. “When we brought him in, it was a trial period as we all know he arrived with a certain reputation. He has certainly matured a lot, and we are looking for that improvement to continue as he is still so young — people forget he’s only just turned 19.
“He hasn’t had an awful lot of coaching, so hopefully if we can put the extra time in then he can be a big asset over the next two and a half years.”
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