Bradley Johnson’s Derby County career could be over already with the midfielder absent from recent matchday squads.
Johnson arrived at a time when Derby were among the Championship’s big spenders. He moved to Pride Park in the same summer as Tom Ince, Jacob Butterfield and Jason Shackell.
But the gamble to send big under rookie manager Paul Clement backfired. Derby lost in the playoffs that season, and they’ve spent the past few seasons in a tight battle with Financial Fair Play.
Johnson has since been in and out of the first-team XI. The 31-year-old started 27 league games last season under Gary Rowett, and nine this season under current boss Frank Lampard.
MORE DERBY STORIES
The moment Bradley Johnson’s Derby County career was over
With the player’s contract running out at the end of the season, Johnson has long been tipped to leave this coming summer. However, his madness at Stoke means he may have already played his final Rams game.
Johnson started the 2-1 defeat at the Bet365 Stadium, and he was involved in the game’s standout talking point. In a melee involving Joe Allen, Johnson seemed to take a bite at the player which was originally missed by the officials.
Upon further review, Johnson was handed retrospective punishment. He received a five-game ban in total, after also picking up his fifth yellow card. That was back in November, meaning he has been available for Derby’s past six matches in all competitions.
Lampard, though, hasn’t included him in any of Derby’s matchday squads and for last weekend’s Championship clash with Reading, the Rams boss instead opted to name three academy players on the bench to make up the numbers.
Derby, while sitting in the playoff positions, are in the midst of a transitional period. Lampard has set about reducing the average age of the squad, and Johnson’s Stoke madness has given him further reason to accelerate the process with George Evans and Duane Holmes benefiting from the situation.