The 25-year-old is loving every minute of life since his £10m move to boyhood idols Sunderland - because he feels wanted again.
Johnson said: "Martin O'Neill's been brilliant. As soon as I spoke to him he made me feel wanted.
"He's a manager I can have a good relationship with.
"It's nice to get praise. You can only take so much criticism and no praise as a player, no matter who you are. I'm sure the gaffer will tell me when I've done something wrong here but you have to have that balance.
"The other night, when I made my Sunderland debut, it felt as if I'd finally have the chains taken off me. The manager has already given me that confidence and freedom. It's what I need."
When Johnson joined City from Middlesbrough, he knew his days as an automatic choice were over. But he still does not think he was given a fair crack of the whip there.
He added: "There were games when I deserved to be playing. I felt I could have given more."