Hibs boss Lee Johnson opens up on his 'secret app' with tips and tricks from Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho
Hibs manager Lee Johnson is constantly learning from other coaches – so much so that he's built an app to help him keep track of what he's picked up.
The Easter Road boss revealed this summer that he has employed a tailor-made app to help sell Hibs to prospective signings as well as collate the footballing education that he has garnered.
When Johnson is out of work, he uses the app to showcase his own selling points. But when he is in the hotseat somewhere, the app’s focus shifts.
"There's a bit of an underground black market in footballing documents. It's quite interesting because I actually built an app,” he explains.
"It's an evolving document. I can control who sees it and I can delete things, whereas a PowerPoint gets shared everywhere.
"So I've got Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers, all their philosophies, their training videos, they're all there.”
Johnson came up against Guardiola and Mourinho during his time managing in England, earning plaudits for his Bristol City team’s performance against Manchester City in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup from the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, who said the Robins had ‘played better than most of the Premier League teams that come to the Etihad’.
For a footballing sponge like Johnson, who takes in as much as he can from various sources, having intricate details of how the top coaches operate is part of his journey to success and being a better manager – including some of the top figures in the world game.
"I try to take stuff from everybody. One who stands out for me is Marcelo Bielsa. I've managed against Guardiola and Mourinho, and I've learned super amounts from them, but Bielsa was a proper education,” he admits.
"I had to study what he'd done for a year because it was ridiculous. We would normally execute 14 or 15 patterns of play per half – but definitely per game – but against his Leeds team, in four games, we didn't execute one.
"We still had chances but they were long balls over the top.
"You try to draw from all these tacticians, really. You watch videos, all these little ideas you can build in to your playing style and help the lads accentuate their best qualities.”
How does someone managing a football team have time to build a mobile app, you may ask? There’s a secret behind that too, involving a particularly talented neighbour who works for tech firm Dyson, but Johnson is keen to explain more about the app itself.
"It’s effectively my playing philosophy. While I’m not at a club I’ll use it as my CV. What happens now I’m in a role is that everything Lee Johnson comes out of it – it’s a bit David Brent with pictures all over it – and everything Hibs goes in.
“The recruitment video goes on the front, rather than my history, and there will be clips from every part of our philosophy in there. It’s a reference for coaches to talk to players.
“The best practice for each position: what does the perfect game for a number ten look like, for example, and here’s you guys actually doing it.”
Johnson also utilises the app in the transfer market, sending it to new signings in a bid to communicate his ideas and thoughts.
“It works well when you bring in players. For example, Jair Tavares never had a manager at Benfica, only sporting directors, so I sent him the app and showed him exactly how I wanted him to play and how he fits in, and the metrics we looked at to add him to our list,” he continues.
“Where we see his development, that becomes important especially when players have six or seven options. It becomes a bit of a string to the bow.
“It was easy with Jair, because he knew about me trying to sign him for Bristol City a few years ago. Players want to feel like they belong.
“Players sign for the club but they also sign for the manager. It’s about trust. Does he know me and what I can and can’t do? How can we add value to the player?
“Take Nohan Kenneh – can we brand him as a top number six? We’re adding value on the pitch, because he is a better player, and off the pitch because we now have a brand of being the best number six in the division.”
Johnson, understandably, doesn’t let on how he makes use of the app on a day-to-day basis. Presumably there isn’t a section on scoring injury-time goals, but as he says, it is a constantly evolving process.
The Easter Road boss has also had time to read up on Hibs’ roots, and the role it plays in his management style. He has spoken at length about his love of history, something he made use of at previous club Sunderland as well.
"I like understanding the history of the clubs – not in terms of cup wins and stuff like that, but the people.
“Sunderland was a good example, because the main industries were shipbuilding and mining. You can imagine the great-grandparents, proper hard grafters down the pit 14 hours a day or building ships, and how tough that was.
"It's about getting embedded in the fabric and becoming the voice of the people.
"With Hibs I looked at the Irish links, the religious links and the priest who set the club up, bringing the Scottish players in and the fight they had to get into the league, because they weren't really respected, and then they started competing and winning. I think there's something in that,” Johnson adds.
"We've always been a little bit of the underdog here, haven't we? Maybe we need to create that underdog spirit at Hibs. Hopefully that will transcend from the playing style.”