How Olympic great Johnson has helped Burnley and Accrington Stanley

Piero Mingoia with Michael Johnson

Piero Mingoia with Michael Johnson

First published in Sport This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

FRIENDS since they were 13 years old, Accrington Stanley’s Piero Mingoia and Burnley striker Marvin Sordell hope to be fast out of the blocks this season thanks to a little help from legendary athlete Michael Johnson.

Mingoia and Sordell both made their senior breakthroughs at Watford under the guidance of current Clarets boss Sean Dyche.

The duo each hail from the north of London – Mingoia from Enfield, Sordell from Pinner – and then followed each other to Lancashire in 2012.

Sordell moved to Bolton before Mingoia switched to Stanley, first on loan and then on a permanent basis.

The pair were separated last year when Sordell spent the season on loan in the capital with Charlton, but the striker’s move to Burnley this summer has seen them reunited once more.

“I’ve known Marvin since the age of 13 and we’ve always kept in touch, so it’s good to have him up here,” said midfielder Mingoia, now 22.

“We went together because obviously we know each other and now he’s up north we go out for dinner sometimes during the week and catch up.

“Hopefully Burnley do well and stay up, because Sean Dyche is there and he had a big impact on my career.

“I caught up with him after our pre-season game against them, and he seemed quite positive.”

Mingoia starts his season this afternoon when Stanley host Southend United in League Two, while Sordell lines up for Burnley in a home friendly against Verona ahead of their Premier League opener against Chelsea on August 18.

It is a sign of their collective determination to succeed this season that both men visited the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park before pre-season had even started, as they attempted to get themselves in perfect shape for the 2014/15 campaign.

There they got the chance to learn from Olympic great Johnson, the fastest man in history over 400 metres. He would still hold the 200m record too, were it not for a certain Usain Bolt.

“He’s still got the world record in the 400m and he’s an absolute legend,” Mingoia said.

“A few of the boys I knew from down south were going so I went along for a few days.

“It was a really good experience. The facilities at St George’s Park were out of this world.

“I heard it started last year and I think they’re going to try to continue it, it’s basically a pre-season camp for footballers.

“There were quite a few boys from different teams, so it looks like it’s becoming popular.

“Obviously with Michael Johnson it was mainly speed specific but because they’ve created it for footballers they put a bit of fitness work in and all-round performance.

“He came in one day and took a sprint session, and from the beginning of the session to the end you could feel improvements because he was giving you world class advice.

“I only managed to go along for three or four days but maybe next year I’ll go for longer, because I think it can really benefit you.”

“I think most boys do stuff in the off season because it’s the way the game’s going these days.

“You can’t really do nothing and be lazy, everyone is trying to improve.”

Trying to improve is exactly what Mingoia will be attempting to do again this term, after an encouraging season last time around.

He wants to help Stanley push on after recovering to finish 15th last season, despite sitting bottom of the table in the early months of the campaign.

“I want to play as much as possible and improve in every aspect, setting up goals and scoring goals,” said the midfielder, who made seven appearances for Watford before his switch to Stanley.

“I just want to be an even better player. Now pre-season is over and the first game is what we’ve been waiting for, so hopefully we can get off to a good start.

“From last season all we had to do was have a really good start and we could have been in a very interesting position.

“Hopefully we can start how we finished and take it from there.”

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