Adam Johnson – how the understudy is set to take on the lead role

Just a few years ago Adam Johnson was Stuart Downing’s understudy at Middlesbrough. Now he has overtaken Downing in the England pecking order and looks to be in with a chance of going to the World Cup.

Johnson has had such an impressive six months at Manchester City that Fabio Capello named him as a surprise inclusion in his 30-man preliminary England squad. Johnson then went on to make his England debut against Mexico on Monday. Although he didn’t get much playing time, he looked quite assured in the small time he was on the pitch, and hopefully will get a start against Japan on Sunday to properly prove himself.

It is interesting that Downing hasn’t been able to get into the England team since his move to Aston Villa, and in fact hasn’t played for England since their World Cup qualifier against Andorra in 2008. When Capello first took charge of England he even said that Downing was the player who had impressed him the most since he first took over, saying:

“Downing played with good quality and a lot of confidence. It’s not easy to play in your first or second game like he has done.”

Despite these early comments Downing hasn’t been able to force his way back into the reckoning, despite playing nearly every game for Villa since November.

Arguably this proves that Johnson is the more talented player as he has had slightly less time at Man City and managed to make the better impression. Another remarkable achievement is that he managed to force his way into the starting line-up, in a squad with a lot of competition and better quality players than Aston Villa.

After his displays this season Capello isn’t the only one who has sat up and took notice, his England team mate Steven Gerrard has praised his efforts. The Liverpool skipper said:

“Adam has looked fantastic in training, he is a typical left-winger, he gets good crosses into the box, and is exciting on the ball.” Gerrard added: “We will have to wait and see what players Fabio goes with in the final 23. But I am sure Adam has got a fantastic chance of going to the World Cup because he is a very talented player.”

With Johnson able to play on both wings he could prove to be a useful player for England in South Africa. He will have a lot of competition ahead him though, but that didn’t stop him becoming a regular for Manchester City, so it will be intriguing to see if he can force his way into the England set-up as well. If he doesn’t make Capello’s final cut then he has still had a great season and it won’t be through no fault of his own that he doesn’t make it.

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