Lee Johnson believes the level of Scottish football can continue to improve as he prepares for the new season with Hibernian.
The former midfielder ended his playing career at Kilmarnock in 2013 and also spent time at Hearts.
Johnson believes his understanding of the ‘intensity’ of the Scottish game will stand him in good stead.
“I think it’s the way it should be now. Hearts were relegated a couple of years ago but got promoted, Rangers had their problems and then went back to the top flight and now the big guns are in Europe and making up good. The national team will also be key,” Johnson told BBC Sport.
“I believe there is an opportunity to raise the level of Scottish football, especially with GB status and everything that entails. There might be five places in Europe next year if you are successful.
“For me, I played there and I understand it. I understand the intensity of the fishbowl that is Scottish football and there is a really good standard too.
“The top six, seven teams are as good as any you’ll find, certainly in the Championship.”
Johnson spent almost 15 months as manager of the Black Cats and the team sat third in League One when he was sacked in January. He was previously the manager at Bristol City, a team he was also a player for, between 2016 and 2020.
Hibernian finished eighth in the Scottish Premiership table this season.
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Start your life at Hibernian
“It’s pretty funny when you lose your job and nobody speaks to you for four months and then all of a sudden, you get a job and you’re absolutely bombarded with calls from agents.
“But its nice. If you enjoy working it’s good to be in the mix, it gets hectic, it gets busy. But at the same time, that’s the pressure and the privilege of being in such a legendary club. such a big club, especially in Scotland and I’m really happy to be there.
“Edinburgh is a beautiful city. I’m a bit of a history geek myself, so I like to study areas and the cities and the fans and everything that pertains to a particular football club. So I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about the capital.”
Working with Assistant Manager Jamie McAllister
“Jamie is obviously a loyal comrade, he’s a fantastic coach, a strong person, psychologically strong and he’s really good in and around the dressing room, with the players and on and around the training ground.
“I actually think Jamie is a manager in his own right at the moment and he would be absolutely willing to leave if the manager’s job came up, but at the same time it could benefit me and Hibernian to hire someone like him as an associate. “
Sunderland’s promotion to the Championship
“If you lose your job, two points less [of the table], it’s hard to take. But of course I went public and said that there are always things going on behind the scenes and sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not.
“On this particular occasion, being misaligned was a bit of a crescendo, and that’s where it led.
“Obviously 90% of the players I’ve signed or re-signed and worked really hard to get these guys in so naturally you’re absolutely happy for them. The staff in Sunderland too, a lot of these guys have been there for 15, 20 or even 25 years so you build a relationship. They’ve been trampled on in the last six or seven years and I’m just happy for them. I hope they all get a really big raise.”
Lessons from the Black Cats
“There were just so many successes in there. I suppose the only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to see it across the line. Is that a learning? Not really because I’ve stuck to my values, I’ve stuck to my principles like you I know I always will and if that’s different or opinion changes where the ownership is.
“I have to respect that because it’s their football club.”
Fondness for Bristol City
“My daughter goes to school in Bristol and was born in Bristol so it will always be a place that is very close to my heart.
“The same goes for Bristol City. They don’t spend 10 years with a club and have no affiliation and look for and check their results.
“It’s tough. When you put everything into a job and then lose your job for whatever reason, it’s not easy. I think everyone who watches this will resonate with it in some way.
“But at the same time you see a lot of the young players coming through the academy. It was great to see Antoine Semenyo come on stage.
“Andi Weimann – we signed him for £1.5m as a fullback and made him a nine and a half and this year he has scored 22 goals and provided assists too. I’m happy for him.”