With news that Man City central midfielder Michael Johnson is under investigation from the police over an alleged head butt, it’s just another incident that threatens to undermine the future of a once talented youngster.
After coming through the youth ranks at Man City, Michael Johnson looked all but set to establish himself as an England international of the future after some truly dominant displays in the heart of City’s midfield under Sven. Sven continued Stuart Pearce’s youth policy at City and brought on younger players such as Joe Hart, Stephen Ireland and Micah Richards more and more during his time at Eastlands but none were as impressive as Johnson was at times.
An impressive campaign in the 2007/8 season saw him on the fringes of the England set up and a mainstay in the under 21 squads. But since then, his career has been marred by incidents off the pitch, injury problems and serious weight gains. After skippering Man City in the FA Youth Cup Final were they went onto lose to a rampant Liverpool side but he managed to force his way into Stuart Pearce’s plans late on in his final season in charge nonetheless and then went onto keep his place in Sven’s attractive outfit.
His ability to run with the ball, retain possession and bound from box to box marked him out as a superb talent and one to watch for the future. But after contracting an abdominal injury and requiring a double-hernia operation in 2007 his time on the pitch has been restricted.
Johnson then returned at the beginning of last season only to be ruled out of for over a year with the same abdominal injury yet again and this term after forcing his way back into the squad he’s now suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament injury in training, one that will force him out until the beginning of next season at the very least.
In short, Johnson has lost nearly two whole seasons to injury, at a stage in his career which is crucial to his own development and whilst extremely sad I doubt he’ll ever reach the heady days of his one superb season under Sven again.
The odd sub appearance and Carling Cup outing have followed in the last couple of season but with Johnson’s weight ballooning until he’s almost unrecognisable nowadays and with rumours of problems off the pitch abound, Johnson’s is a cautionary tale to all youngsters who have potential. Rumours of attitude problems on the training ground and a penchant for hitting Manchester’s hotspots have sullied a once promising reputation and he’s not the first youngster that’s been unable to cope with the rigours of modern day expectations such as fellow City graduate Joey Barton will testify to.
Johnson’s potential remains untapped at present and after being considered the better prospect out of him and Stephen Ireland it would have been particularly grating to see Ireland enjoy such a superb run of form last season working in tandem with Robinho to great effect. Serious injuries have hampered his progress immensely and Johnson’s story is an extremely sad one to see play out, but this latest head butting incident just highlights how far the 22 year old midfielder is from his best and shows just how close you can get to the very top before fate deals you a bad hand.
Written By James McManus