INJURIES can damage any footballer’s career. Think Jack Wilshere constantly being on the treatment table or Andy Carroll picking up niggle after niggle. Well this was the case for Bradford (Park Avenue)’s Oli Johnson too.

However, the 32-year-old has two men that he believes rescued his career by helping him overcome his fitness issues.

Johnson admitted: “I have loved playing part-time and a lot of it is down to playing under (Mark) Bower and Bosh (Danny Boshell).

“It is not too intense, but you know you've got to work hard. They are top guys and are understanding of work issues. They know what my body is like and let me manage it, whereas other gaffers probably wouldn’t do that. Thanks to them, I've been able to forge a good part-time career.”

It could have all been very different for Johnson, who began his career battling his way around the Wakefield leagues with Nostell Miners Welfare before then-League One side Stockport County came calling.

After signing for Norwich City at the age of 22, the world was the striker’s oyster. A stellar League One season and some games in the Championship followed, before Paul Lambert decided to cut Johnson out of his plans as the Canaries achieved Premier League status.

The forward admitted that injuries weren’t a major issue at that stage, it was more the increase in playing standards that the youngster struggled to adapt to.

“It was all a bit surreal,” Johnson said. “I had gone from non-league to Norwich in the space of 15 months. I questioned whether I was good enough for that. I was a bit anxious but I had to go, you’re not going to turn it down. It was a bit overwhelming.

“My first game against Exeter there were 25,000 there and I was like, 'bloody hell this is a bit different to Nostell'. One of my first few touches I took a few players on and just shot wide from 25 yards. The fans started chanting my name and I was like, 'wow this is incredible'.

“The first season I was flying but then the next I found it harder, the training was more intense, and the standard was higher. I was fourth choice striker and did not get a chance of a game.

“I expected not to be part of the plans because that is football. I was not good enough for that level. I was just grateful for the opportunity.”

Then came the fitness problems which cost ‘OJ’ a place in the Football League. Spells at Oxford United and York City both came to a premature end.

“My biggest regret is that I didn’t manage the injuries properly. I didn’t rest, I kept trying to play and train,” Johnson admitted.

“I had a groin problem. I ended up leaving Oxford because the manager was not really having me as soon as I got injured.

“He was probably right because I went to York and my body was in bits. I couldn't run or break out of a jog. They couldn't work out why, the medical side wasn't great there, and they cancelled my contract at York.

“So, as well as not playing for the previous six months, I didn’t play for another year on top of that.”

The striker ended up at Guiseley, the place where he first bumped into Bower and Boshell.

Johnson signed for the Lions in January 2014 and excelled in the subsequent season, helping secure their promotion to the National League.

Then came the move to Bradford, with the managerial duo moving in the same direction, and the same feat was almost accomplished, as Avenue twice missed out in the play-offs.

Johnson explained why he departed Avenue last summer and said it was a coincidence that he returned at the same time as his favourite manager.

The forward said: “That was my best season in football (2017-18). I only missed one game through suspension. The following season it was harder with the injuries. I loved being part of that changing room.

“My contract was coming to an end, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be staying. I had peroneal tendonitis in my knee which I had for a year. My plan was to take some time out of football and get that sorted.

“How it all transpired was Mark and Bosh left and I didn’t speak to anyone at the club. It was strange there was no communication from anyone, so I just cracked on with my rehab. It was not until November that I was ready to play again.

“It was quiet poetic that just as I was ready to play, they came back. There was only one place I was going to go. It is a different group of players and situation to where we are in the league (cut adrift at the bottom), but I am happy to be back playing.”

Speaking on his future if Avenue were to go down, he said: “My loyalty is always to Bower for what he has done for me.”