Michael Johnson: From future star to free transfer

Posted on January 15, 2013

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I stumbled across a story today which has received very little mainstream media coverage other than a few, short posts on various sport sections of websites across the internet.  To be quite honest, it’s a sad story for football as a promising, English midfielder falls out of the professional game with little more than a whimper.

Johnson clashing with Italian legend, Andrea Pirlo

Johnson clashing with Italian legend, Andrea Pirlo

Michael Johnson emerged from Manchester City’s youth academy in 2006 when he made his Premier League debut in a 4-0 victory at Wigan Athletic in October.  A central midfielder by trade, Johnson was one of several promising, English players to come out of the City academy along with Micah Richards; Daniel Sturridge and Nedum Onouha, two of whom now have caps for the England senior side and all are regulars for their respective Premier League sides.  Johnson brought a cultured approach to the City midfield that was well beyond his years, described as a young Colin Bell, it was believed he had the potential to go onto to become a regular first team player for his club and for England in the future.

The young & majestic central midfielder made a real impact during the 2007/08 Premier League season as he made a total of twenty three Premier League appearances scoring two goals.  Alongside players like Stephen Ireland and Brazilian playmaker, Elano, Johnson showed he had the ability to control the midfield and dictate the pace of the game.  However, injury was to intervene in this crucial period.  After spending some time out with an abdominal injury during the back end of 2007 and the early part of 2008.  He underwent surgery to correct a double hernia which would hopefully cure the long running injury problems.  Johnson made a return to the City first team side on 28th February 2008 once again against Wigan Athletic.

Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a recurrence of the abdominal injury which had plagued him earlier in his career and was thus prevented from continuing his progress at the start of the 2008/09 season.  This was the beginning of the end for Johnson as he failed to make any sort of full time to return to football with Manchester City.  He made only four appearances in five seasons since the initial recurrence of the abdominal injury, and a serious knee injury sustained in training in 2010 only exacerbated his problems on the pitch.

A loan spell at Leicester City was also cut short by injury.  After signing a season long loan deal at The Foxes in July 2011, Johnson only managed to make a total of nine appearances for The Championship club before injury intervened and the midfielder returned to Manchester.

On Tuesday 15th January 2013, it emerged that Michael Johnson had been released by Manchester City after they bought out the remainder of his reported £40,000 a week contract.  A history of injury problems had clearly taken its toll on a once promising football player.  However, there has also been a history of attitude problems associated with the midfielder.  Both Roberto Mancini and Mark Hughes raised questions about his personality and several, subsequent drink-driving offences seemed to support the theory that Johnson did not have the right attitude to succeed in the professional game.

As Johnson leaves City on a free transfer, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness to see such a promising, English footballer go to waste, partly through circumstances that couldn’t be controlled and partly through a poor attitude towards one of the greatest careers a young man can hope for.

What next for Johnson?  I have no idea whether Michael will return to the professional game, but I have no doubt that clubs throughout The Football League will be on high alert to the midfielder’s availability on a free transfer, despite his history.  In the past, Johnson had mentioned a desire to play for the club he supported as a boy, Leeds United…but who knows where the former star will end up.

By Jamie Allen

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Posted in: Football