Bristol City boss Lee Johnson says he admires the “winning” mentality of Australian players as he’s keeps a close eye on the best Aussie talent in the Hyundai A-League.
The City manager appointed Caltex Socceroo defender Bailey Wright as his captain this year, and his admiration for Australians goes back to his playing days with the club.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with Australian players as a player and as a coach – Nick Carle and Bailey being just two," Johnson told www.a-league.com.au fresh from a 2-1 loss to Manchester City in Wednesday morning’s Carabao Cup first leg.
Carle, a former Caltex Socceroo and Hyundai A-League player of the year, called City home in 2008, helping the club to a Championship play-off final at Wembley (only to lose to a Dean Windass goal).
“I’ve always got my eye on the Australian national market because of the society and culture they are brought up in; a winning environment,” Johnson added.
More recently, Johnson’s link with Manchester City – the club assisted his coaching development – has given him another window into the A-League.
“Through links with Man City, at one time I was watching Melbourne City for most of their games.
“I know it’s a good standard of football and we’ve seen with the likes of Aaron Mooy coming over and doing well at Huddersfield Town, via Man City, that there’s bound to be more [Australians] coming over in the future.
“There are a couple of players in Australian national team who are really impressing at the moment.”
Bristol City's link with Australian footballers goes back to the mid-1990s when Australian U23s striker David Seal plied his trade at Ashton Gate.
And current Sydney FC right-back Luke Wilkshire forced his way into the 2006 Socceroos World Cup side on the back of over 100 appearances for the Ashton Gate club from 2003.
Johnson is effusive in his praise for Wright, who made his name in England at Preston before signing with City a year ago.
The defender having the armband has been part of a culture overhaul at Bristol City.
And it’s working with City still in with an outside chance of making the Carabao Cup Final while they sit fifth in the Championship with a playoff spot for the Premier League very much in reach.
“He’s been very important for us. We look to sign players who are great people and great footballers,” Johnson said of Wright.
“He’s proved to be just that; he’s an honourable man and a fantastic footballer – the type of person we like to entice to Bristol City and build the team around.
“We made him captain, which just shows how much we value his contribution, both on and off the pitch.”
Asked to describe his Australian captain in three words, Johnson said: “Genuine, tough, talented.”