Gary Johnson: Relationship between manager and physio is so important

Kai Hepworth, physio at Torquay United. Photo: Sean Hernon/PPAUK

Kai Hepworth, physio at Torquay United. Photo: Sean Hernon/PPAUK - Credit: Sean Hernon/PPAUK

The great Steve Redgrave was still winning Olympic gold medals when most other rowers had been long retired, and he gave a fair bit of the credit for that to a guy called Ron Johnson. He's my dad.

When he got fed up with being a London cabbie years ago, my dad enrolled on a course in South London and ended up as a physio at Crystal Palace under Terry Venables.

He went to Queen's Park Rangers with Terry, worked with the Great Britain team at two Olympic Games and also had his own physio and osteotherapy clinic in Woking.

He treated Steve Redgrave a lot and got close to him, and Steve reckons he helped to put ten years on his rowing career.

So me and my brothers Steve and Pete - we all played football, of course - grew up with a pretty good grounding in injuries and what you did about them.

I could never be a physio myself, but after all these years I reckon I've got a good idea when a physio really knows his job or not.

I can spot when someone is spinning me a bit of a yarn.

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There aren't many more important relationships in a football club than the one between the manager and the physio.

You soon get a feeling of whether he or she is top-class. They need to be top-class at any level of the game, but especially in the lower divisions, where the pressures on smaller squads are greater.

At the top of the list is diagnosis - not just getting it right, but getting it early.

If someone diagnoses something wrongly, you can easily spend six weeks treating that first wrong diagnosis.

The physio needs to give the manager a diagnosis and a time-frame for when the player will be back.

The proof is always in the pudding, and if those first two calls are totally wrong, you've got to start questioning the person who's making them.

When Kai Hepworth first came to work for Cheltenham Town as an intern, I knew he was going to be a good 'un.

He's definitely proved it over the last few years, and even more now he's in charge of all the extra problems and protocols that go with the Covid-19 restrictions.

He's excellent at diagnosis, he's a physio, first-aider and almost a doctor all rolled into one. He has a great range of knowledge and, of course, he works morning, noon and night.

You also need someone who is humble in his work, and I know Kai feels like the 'grim reaper' sometimes, when he has to give us bad news.

The old days are gone when people used to say 'Just man up and get on with it'. But you don't need someone who says 'Gaffer, he's going to need six weeks out cos he's broken his toenail'.

It can be a fine line, and it's so important to get those judgment calls right.

Bringing Kai to Plainmoor was one of the key appointments I made when I first came here, and I'm so glad I made it.

I look on him as a young Ron Johnson. I'm sure he will have a very good career wherever he goes in the future, but I hope he stays with us for some time yet...

Stay safe everyone. Our friendlies start this weekend, and the big-kick-off against Stockport at Plainmoor is only another three weeks away on October 3!