West Ham United youngster Benjamin Johnson was thrown in at the deep end by manager Manuel Pellegrini on Wednesday, as he made his Premier League debut against Manchester City.
Following an injury scare to Aaron Cresswell, who, per Football.London , broke his toe in the 3-1 win over Fulham, the 19-year-old was drafted into the team, with Arthur Masuaku also on the sidelines.
Naturally a right-back, Johnson can use both feet, and was subsequently trusted to play out of position, being matched up with City’s record signing, Riyad Mahrez, as a result.
Johnson played well, limiting the Algeria international’s chances and never appearing fazed by the occasion.
Indeed, per WhoScored, the teenager made one tackle, three clearances and one interception before suffering an injury himself, with Pablo Zabaleta brought on to replace him.
The opposite may be true over the next few years, however, with Johnson highly rated in east London.
He has football in the blood, too; his uncle is former Manchester United star Paul Parker, while ex-Tottenham Hotspur captain Ledley King is his cousin.
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s debut was a bold call from Pellegrini – Johnson has played 18 times for the club’s Under-23 side this season and did not appear to be on the fringes of the first-team.
He seized the chance with both hands, though, and has now set his sights on even more.
“It’s been a great occasion,” he told the club’s official website. “I’ve been waiting around for it the whole day, but I enjoyed it a lot and it was a great experience to be out there against the best – that’s who I want to be playing against.
“The Gaffer put me in the starting eleven [when we worked on] the set pieces earlier and that’s when I knew, so I just got prepared for it.
“I felt like I did OK. I just need to pick up on a few things, watch it back and improve my game. I felt confident out there and I’m ready to go again.
“I want to be here more often now. This is what I dreamed of as a kid, being here is great and hopefully there’s more to come.”
With his familial ties and the sensible head on his shoulders, Johnson can expect to feature even more under Pellegrini over the next few months.
Indeed, he may well eventually edge Zabaleta out of the team and save West Ham a fortune when it comes to replacing the veteran Argentine.