Bradley Johnson was quick to pass the praise to his Rovers team-mates after being named as the Championship’s player of the month for September.

But Johnson feels that hard work extends to longer than just last month where they secured back-to-back victories over Wycombe Wanderers and Derby County by an aggregate of 9-0.

Johnson held off competition from Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jamie Paterson (Bristol City) and Jed Wallace (Millwall) to land the first award of the season, and the first of his career.

He has operated as part of a midfield three for Rovers in the early weeks of the season, a move away from the previous 4-2-3-1 used by Tony Mowbray throughout his time in charge, and that looks to have paid dividends in both an attacking, and defensive, sense.

The 33-year-old has been pivotal to that and says the work on a new style of play extends back to when the players first returned from their lockdown break.

“I’m delighted to win this award, but it’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he said.

“The players have put in a lot of hard work over the last six months to develop a new way of playing and it’s paying off in our performances. But the hard work doesn’t stop now, we have to keep it going.”

Johnson’s impressive start to the season has been headlined by his three goals, all from outside the box, including two against his former club Derby County.

You would have expected Derby to know better than to let him line up two strikes on his left foot, and Johnson, who has already matched his goal tally from the whole of last season, hopes there’s more to come.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I like to have a shot from outside the box and fortunately the balls have been dropping for me and I’ve managed to score a few goals in our opening games,” he said.

“The way we play, we’re always going to create chances, so hopefully I can chip in with a few more and we can have a successful season.”

Behind that goalscoring form has been his impressive defensive work, winning 12 headers and eight tackles, as well as making 11 interceptions, across his four Championship appearances.

That has helped Rovers keep three consecutive clean sheets going into the international break after the 0-0 draw with Cardiff City last time out.

Derrick Williams has been another key part of that in the centre of the Rovers defence, but admits the role of Johnson has been key in the recent upturn in defensive fortunes.

“Massive,” he said of Johnson’s role in the side, “he’s so good in the air as well.

“With his experience he knows when to drop in, when to push up high, when Bradley is on his game he’s a pleasure to play with.”

In taking the award, Johnson becomes the fourth Rovers player to do so since relegation from the Premier League, following in the footsteps of Adam Armstrong (January 2019), Jordan Rhodes (September 2015) and Rudy Gestede (April 2014).

Armstrong was a surprise omission from the shortlist, having scored five times in three appearances last month.

In choosing Johnson for the four-man shortlist, the judging panel said of his September performances: “Definitely a standout player of the Sky Bet Championship’s first month of action, it felt like Bradley Johnson was involved in everything Blackburn did right going forward. 

“The midfielder is flourishing in a slightly more dynamic role, and the returns are clear to see. Johnson bagged three times himself during September and contributed hugely to Blackburn’s impressive opening month of the campaign.”

Reading boss Veljko Paunovic won the manager prize, after guiding his side to a perfect September, seeing off Dean Holden (Bristol City), Steve Cooper (Swansea City) and Jason Tindall (Bournemouth).

Johnson had an up and down first season at Rovers, but his manager believes he’s found a role in the side and is benefiting from increased fitness levels.

He added: “Bradley is really growing into this football club. His performances have been exceptional so far this season and let’s see if he can maintain it.

“I think we’re seeing the player that we know he is.

“We’ve worked really hard on his fitness levels and I think it’s paying dividends now. He’s running, he’s closing down, he’s winning the ball back, he’s getting high up the pitch and he’s scoring goals, and the team are benefiting from that.”