Monday, 4 May 2009

Glenn Johnson stakes his claim

It’s been a difficult season for Portsmouth, incorporating three managers, European disappointment and a poor run of form that has seen the 2008 FA Cup winners embroiled in a relegation battle.

But a shining light amongst the South Coast gloom has been full-back Glenn Johnson, who finally looks to be realising his enormous potential.

It’s surprising to consider Johnson made his Premier League debut six years ago, though even then it took him no time to adapt to the rigours of top flight football.

But unfortunately for Johnson he came into a West Ham side struggling against relegation - a battle which they would ultimately lose.

But despite the Hammers' relegation Johnson’s performances were good enough to attract the attention of Claudio Ranieri at a newly cash-rich Chelsea, and he became an early piece in Roman’s revolutionary jigsaw.

With Gary Neville’s injury troubles increasing with age, a right-back slot in the England side also emerged and Johnson proved an early contender to replace him.

The move perhaps came too soon for Johnson as a loss of form eventually saw him lose his England place and the Chelsea right-back berth to Paulo Ferreira as the Blues, under Jose Mourinho, swept past all before them.

But Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, always with a keen eye for a bargain, took Johnson to Fratton on a season-long loan in 2007. It proved an inspired move as Johnson, benefiting from regular first-team football, regained his early West Ham form. An FA Cup winner’s medal and a permanent move to Pompey showed that he had finally settled and was beginning to realise his potential.

Despite the upheaval at Fratton Park this season Johnson has upset the football odds by being consistently outstanding and looks to be enjoying his football again, picking up the club’s player of the year award in the process. His form didn’t go unnoticed by new England boss Fabio Capello who has restored Johnson to the England squad and he appears much more at home at International level then he did when he first broke into the side.

It is a big ask to replace such an established and respected fullback as Gary Neville, who played for England for over a decade, but Johnson finally looks like the man to do so.