When Preston North End paid just £50,000 to sign Daniel Johnson from Aston Villa, few expected him to be quite this good.
It’s rare that I mention myself in articles, but this exception is merited.
People who have followed me on Twitter for a long time now may remember me calling for PNE to sign Johnson during the 2014-15 season.
When PNE actually did sign Johnson in January 2015, I was so excited. Johnson was dynamic, had a great left foot and was capable of scoring from midfield.
After starring at Oldham Athletic and Chesterfield, I felt sure that Johnson was the right profile North End needed.
Yet even I didn’t quite predict this level of quality.
Johnson immediately excelled at Preston
Sure enough, Johnson made an instant impact at Deepdale. With eight goals in 23 outings, Johnson helped fire PNE to promotion.
For almost seven years now, Johnson has been a fixture of the North End side. We’ve seen him grow from a 22-year-old talent into a 28-year-old leader.
More often than not, when Johnson plays well, North End play well.
Johnson is PNE’s most creative player, one of the biggest goal threats and you usually trust him to make the right decision on the ball.
Some wanted Johnson to be sold in the summer of 2019. Wigan Athletic came calling, but Johnson stayed. Having usually played as a deep midfielder under Alex Neil, Johnson moved up to number 10.
Johnson had a bit of a down year last season as contract talks and Rangers interest were hanging over him.
Now back to his best, Johnson has hit a very memorable milestone.
50th goal makes Aston Villa demands look bizarre
By scoring against Sheffield United on Wednesday, Johnson scored his 50th PNE goal.
Taking in a raking Ryan Ledson pass, Johnson showed a great first touch with his chest to take goalkeeper Robin Olsen out of the equation before calmly slotting home.
That was Johnson’s 50th PNE goal. That’s more than David Nugent, more than Paul Gallagher, more than Ricardo Fuller. More than Graham Alexander.
Johnson’s output has been outstanding, and he deserves all the plaudits he gets.
At a paltry £50,000, Johnson has essentially cost £1,000 per goal. Any signing with that kind of production would be a success!
You have to wonder if Aston Villa knew what they had. Would Johnson get into their side now? No, probably not.
But £50k?! That’s an outrageous fee, one Preston were more than happy to pay.
You could barely sign a non-league player for £50k in this day an age. To demand that for a player who had shown quality in the Villa reserves seems truly bizarre.
All we can say is thank you to those at Villa at the time – you gave us an all-time bargain.