Glen Johnson has made shocking revelations about how the players at Stoke City knew they were going to be relegated from the Premier League last season.
Stoke slipped out of the top flight in the 2017/18 campaign after a disastrous year where they won just seven games and had the worst goal difference in the league.
Speaking on Radio 5 Live’s Friday Night Social, Johnson offered insight into what it was like in the dressing room.
When asked if he could foresee problems, he said: “One hundred per cent. We called it in pre-season, it was that bad.
“But you know what it’s like, every dressing room has got X, Y, Zs who think they are superstars or whatever.
“We had a core of about eight lads that were genuine good lads who would put things straight and police everything as every club had. We got rid of two or three and didn’t replace them with anyone – good lads, like Whelo (Glenn Whelan) who would run through brick walls for the team.
“They took it away from the genuine lads to try to sign superstars and got it horribly wrong. Then you had players who didn’t want to be at training, walking off the pitch, kicking balls about.
“I’ve seen stuff that I hadn’t seen before in my life.”
One of the problems in the dressing room was record signing Giannelli Imbula, who the club signed for £18.3million in 2016 on a five-and-a-half year contract.
He is still under contract with the club but has spent the last two seasons on loan at Toulouse and Rayo Vallecano.
“Giannelli Imbula subbed himself because someone didn’t pass him the ball. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was in a pre-season game and in training, I swear to you. Record signing. Like £20million or something?
“He’s on the edge of the box or whatever, Charlie (Adam) has burst through and didn’t cut the ball back so he’s waved his arms in the air with his gloves on then he starts walking towards the bench.
“Then he’s swearing in French on the bench, throwing things around, but still no one knows what’s going on. Then obviously someone gets stripped off and comes on.
“But then 10 minutes later he decides he wants to play again. This is where it’s a disgrace. He came back on and they took the kid off again.”
Johnson also revealed how manager Mark Hughes would “turn his back” on the problems with certain players in the dressing room.
He said: “So rather than saying to G (Imbula), people are having a word with the manager, saying, ‘Did you not see this?’ We’re not saying it as calmly as that by the way. We’re saying, ‘Is no one going to say anything?’ But no one would say anything and they’d roll their eyes.
“And then it got even worse. When he was doing stuff they would turn their back so they didn’t see it, so they could avoid confrontation.”
Johnson made just nine appearances during that relegation season with Stoke after suffering injury problems.
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He was released at the end of the season and decided to retire. The 34-year-old said that it made him want to quit football.
“It did that – and made me hate football,” he added.
“You are watching these players and they are bang average but think they are superstars.
“It is what it is. I’ve loved every other day in my career apart from those six months.”