Sheffield United: Marvin Johnson explains how he graduated from the school of hard knocks with the right attitude and his coaching badges

Sheffield United's Marvin Johnson with team mate Martin Cranie
Sheffield United's Marvin Johnson with team mate Martin Cranie

Sheffield United loanee Marvin Johnson has described how his experiences in non-league football helped prepare him for the professional game.

The winger, who joined Sheffield United on loan last month, worked as a shop assistant moving to Solihull Moors before going on to represent Coleshill Town and Romulus.

Although Johnson admits it was a tough upbringing, working and playing on a part-time basis allowed him to enroll on a coaching course; something he credits with shaping his view of the game.

"It's good, it toughens you up and makes you realise what hard work is rather than being brought through an academy," Johnson said. "It's been great for me, a hard journey, but I've enjoyed every minute of it and I think it's improved me as a player."

Johnson, whose big break came when Motherwell lured him away from Kidderminster Harriers in 2015, is the latest in a long line of United players who began their players in the non-league system. Fellow new arrival Conor Washington was a postman before moving to Newport County while Jack O'Connell, Mark Duffy and Chris Basham either made their debuts or started life in the amateur game.

Staff at the Steelphalt Academy, widely recognised as the region's finest youth system, have also recognised the importance of equipping aspiring young players with real life skills; introducing a work placement scheme in conjuction with some of United's sponsors.

Sheffield United winger Marvin Johnson

Sheffield United winger Marvin Johnson

"I think it helps when you have grown up through non-league and you know nothing more than working hard, you know nothing is given to you on a plate," Johnson said. "That's stuck with me.

"On and off, I was doing a little bit of retail and also my coaches badges back then. It was a time when I didn't know if I was going to be a pro' or end up going to work so I kept my options open. I'm glad I kept my head down and worked hard."

Johnson, who could make his United debut at Bristol City tomorrow, applied the same rule of thumb when Tony Pulis confirmed Middlesbrough would be going in a different direction following his appointment last term. It suggests, providing he performs under Wilder, that Johnson could join United on a permanent basis when his temporary agreement expires.

"It made an impression on me that the manager here kept going for me," Johnson said. "Sometimes a manager will want a player and almost set himself a deadline as he needs to move on to the next one if the deal doesn't look like getting done.

"For him to wait right until the last minute was a big show of confidence in me. If you're just a transfer target, managers have multiple ones and move on. You're just a number. When a gaffer is prepared to wait, it means a lot more because you know it's you he wants and no one else."