Damien Johnson’s role is likely to take on increasing significance in the upcoming season as Rovers continue to push through more young players, and encourage the individual development of players under contract.

Johnson was promoted to the senior set-up last summer to become first-team technical coach from his previous position as Under-23s boss. There he worked with the likes of Ryan Nyambe, Lewis Travis and John Buckley who have progressed through the Academy ranks, with Joe Rankin-Costello and Hayden Carter the latest to follow in their footsteps.

Johnson’s role has seen him be hands-on during training sessions on the Brockhall pitches, but has also come in to his own leading the player development off it, using technology to analyse every aspect of a players’ game.

His growing reputation has been rewarded with the chance to work with the Northern Ireland senior team as first-team coach, combining that with his role at Rovers.

Ian Baraclough was the man given the reins to lead Northern Ireland, after Michael O’Neill opted to focus solely on his role as Stoke City manager after the Euro 2020 play-off matches were put back to October.

And he sees Johnson as a key part of his coaching set-up moving forward, also working alongside Jimmy Nicholl, Austin MacPhee and Steve Harper

“I knew Damien was involved with the Under-21s when Jim Magilton was in charge and I had come up against him with teams I had taken to Blackburn,” he said.

“I like what he did with the Under-23s at Blackburn and thought it would be nice to bring somebody in with a link to Northern Ireland and some of the players in the squad.

“He said he was surprised and honoured to receive the call and proud to be asked to represent his country again.

“He will come in and add quality to the staff and help take us forward.

“It’s important to keep that Northern Irish flavour in the coaching staff and he can bring innovative information on how we put training sessions on.”

Johnson, who won 56 caps for Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2010, will be involved in Nations League matches with Romania and Norway before the play-off game in Bosnia in October.

Win that, and they will set up a November meeting with either Slovakia or Republic of Ireland as they look to qualify for back-to-back European Championships.

A former Rovers Academy graduate, Johnson played 81 times for the club and returned in 2015 as Under-21s manager. He spent four years in that post before his appointment to the first-team at Rovers as he continues to help guide the next generation.

Defender Carter, who made his senior debut last month, believes the 41-year-old’s input has been key, and was delighted to see him rewarded with his Northern Ireland appointment.

He said: “Damien is a great coach, you can see that with the work he did with the Under-23s and his role with Northern Ireland.

“He’s been recognised as a great coach and he’s helped me a lot in terms of my technical and tactical work and I’m thankful for all that Damien has done in helping me to get here.”

It is now 12 months since Johnson stepped up to work alongside the first-team in a new-look role, one Tony Mowbray pushed for.

And he believes Johnson is an integral part of the club’s behind the scenes work.

“Damien is a modern coach who works off his laptop, with individuals, and improves individuals,” Mowbray said.

“When you’ve got a young coach like Damien who’s happy to work all hours cutting videos of the training never mind the games and going through it with the young players, the fine details, their first touch, working with young players on their game.

“Damien has brought the fine detail, one-on-one detail with the players.”

While Johnson doesn’t crave attention or push for recognition, his role has been recognised by his country, as well as his club. And he’s delighted to have the opportunity to combine both roles, believing it to be beneficial all round.

“I played for nearly 10 years and really enjoyed that period,” he said of his time in the green of Northern Ireland.

“Some of the best moments in my career came in a Northern Ireland shirt.

“The recent success the team has had has been fantastic to watch, and it’s a fantastic opportunity I’ve been presented with.

“I’m thankful for Ian to offering me it and the club for being agreeable.

“Hopefully it will benefit myself and the club in the long-term.”

For Johnson, the last 12 months has been a learning curve.

“I’ve enjoyed it immensely. It’s been a big step up for me, a big learning curve trying to come into this role, but it’s been really exciting for me ever since the manager offered me the opportunity,” he said after making 12 months as part of Mowbray’s backroom team.

“I’ve loved every minute of it, but I’m still keen to get better, to do more and keep pushing on.”