Ryan Johnson’s rise from being released by Kidderminster Harriers to being on the cusp of the Football League is nothing short of amazing.

The 24-year-old’s career has been a mixed bag with different spells at Stevenage, Boreham Wood and Nuneaton Town.

Now, he finds himself playing a crucial role in the Hartlepool United team as they look to aim to a return to the Football League.

“We’re all buzzing” says Johnson.

“Obviously it’s an amazing opportunity for the lads individually and collectively. It’s massive for the club as well so we know the importance of it. We just need to concentrate on Sunday and get the job done.

“I think we already had that belief to be fair. The lads believe in what we can achieve. It’s just good to put that on the pitch and put that in the forefront.

“The squad is just so together. We’re really in tune with each other.

“It does help massively because we know that we’re there for each other.

“We are so close-knit and so tight so it’s a massive help and it’s a massive advantage.

“The Football League is the aim. As a club with the stature of Hartlepool, that’s where we do belong. It would be nice to get there and hopefully we can do.”

Not only has Johnson showed solidarity at the back, he’s had an eye for goal this season with five to his name during the campaign.

Veteran defender Gary Liddle was full of praise last week for his central defensive partners in Johnson and Lewis Cass, who are well behind the 34-year-old when it comes to experience.

However, Liddle says Johnson and his defensive colleagues handled the occasion of playing in front of a crowd in a play-off tie.

But the 24-year-old admits Liddle returns the favour on a regular basis and that he’s helped him take his opportunity in the first team when he was called upon.

“I’ve learnt so much from him.

“I message him most days after the game and say ‘thanks for that’ and ‘it’s been a pleasure to play with you’. It’s amazing to be fair and he’s helped me so much.

“He’s calming. He’s such a calming presence next to you. Like when he’s clearing off the line and it just gives you that extra boost. Through his age, he seems to be getting better and better.

“I thank God for the opportunities and I think it’s just a process that I’m ready for.

“I’ve always had self belief but obviously sometimes it’s more difficult than actually putting it into practice so I’m just glad that I’ve done that this season.”

Ahead of undoubtedly the biggest game of Johnson’s career, the left footed centre back says they’ve look at the areas of improvement from last week’s victory at Victoria Park.

“It’s going to be a different challenge to the Bromley game being away and there fans being in the ground but it’s a challenge that we are ready for and I’m looking forward to it so we’ll see how it goes.

“We’ve been looking at what we can improve upon from the Bromley game and fine tweaking our game so we can be ready for the Stockport game. Obviously I know it’s a different challenge.

“I think we’ve got to implement our game pretty early in the game to quiet their fans and disrupt their atmosphere so hopefully we can do that and then it becomes a case of focussing on the football and not the crowd.

“The lads are pretty calm, they are pretty excited so it’s just preparation really.

“I think it is personality and we’ve got some big characters in our squad. You’ve got the likes of Lidds (Gary Liddle) and Feaths (Nicky Featherstone) and Ryan Donaldson. They are there to really calm you if any of the lads do feel a bit anxious or nervous. You’ve got them to help you.”