Being the very vocal advocates for youth development that we are, we need to accept all the possible downsides to more and more people embracing the notion of investing in younger players and their development with the belief that this ideology will always afford the beautiful game a solid foundation for growth. With all those positives brought into consideration, it’s not a rarity for one to see many young players succumbing to the heavy expectations paced on them and the media circus that comes with being so gifted in this age of technology and the increased pressure to perform at a level that justifies the increased levels of remuneration, for so many diverse and often bizarre reasons an alarming number of these players ultimately fail to become the super talents that people predicted they would be and thus the common question in the barroom over a pint as the football plays, “what happened to that boi?”
Introduced himself as
A technically adept midfield general who seemed primed to become yet another star English box-to-box midfielder in the mould of Paul Scholes and Ray Parlour before him; blessed with the engine to run his socks off for an entire game and still look up for another run-out, Michael Johnson was the young British midfield general poised to become a star for both club and country, after spells with various sides at youth level, the promising youngster signed for Manchester City in 2004 as a 16 year old sensation who had already been capped for England at u/16 level.
The 20th graduate out of the Manchester City academy into the first team squad, Johnson took his great promise from the youth ranks onto the elite stage and looked at home marshalling the midfield in a squad that had a good mix of youth and experience to make for a competitive and educational environment. Michael Johnson made his debut for City in October of 2006 away to Wigan Athletic as gaffer Stuart Pearce showed his faith in a young lad that had recently captained the City Academy side, in the absence of Micah Richards, as they finished runners-up in the 2006 FA Youth Cup final. His debut was not a memorable one as the side lost 4-0 at the JJB stadium and Johnson had to wait until March of 2007 for his second start for City in a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough, it begun a healthy run of 7 consecutive games in the starting unit and his great run in the side came to an end as a hamstring injury ruled him out for a clash against Aston Villa.
Michael Johnson netted his 1st senior goal for City on the 15th of August in 2007 as they beat Derby County 1-0 at home; the goal was City’s first league strike at home since the turn of the new year, it also marked the start of Johnson’s injury troubles as he then missed the remainder of 2007 and the start of 2008 with an abdominal injury while also undergoing a double-hernia operation during the layoff. Returning to action in a nil-all draw against the club he made his debut against, Wigan Athletic, Johnson finished the 2007-2008 season in decent form and was looking back to full match fitness.
Where did it go wrong?
The injection of resources and highly recruited international players did not seem to deter the Umston born lad as he combined well in a free flowing and competitive midfield trio that included Stephen Ireland and Elano; yet his injury troubles begun to flare up again as a recurrence of his abdominal injury in a League Cup loss to Brighton & Hove Albion on the 24th of September 2008 ruled him out for competitive football for 7 months. Johnson failed to feature for the first team for the remainder of the season and his return in a pre-season match against Orlando Pirates was his last appearance for the club for a further couple of months as he picked up a strain in the warm-up for the Kaizer Chiefs clash during the clubs tour of South Africa. After a year out of the side, Johnson returned to the City first team on the 28th of September 2009 as a substitute in a 3-1 win over West Ham United. His resurgence was short lived as the club announced on December 10th that Johnson had suffered a serious knee injury during training that would rule him out for months and see him miss the remainder of the season.
A season long loan to Leicester City for the 2011-12 season was cut short in January of 2012 when he sustained yet another injury after making 9 appearances for the Championship side. That marked the end of a promising career plagued by injuries for a talented young player that had immense ability and the potential to become one of the best midfield players to come out of English football in his generation. Michael Johnson was released from his professional contract in December of 2012, the 24 year old was then a reasonably regressed version of himself as a footballer and seemingly beaten as a young man who had the world at his feet as a teenager; recording a measly four competitive appearances in his final 5 seasons under contract at City, there was little to smile about with the once promising youngster failing to make a single appearance in his last 3 seasons at the club.
We have seen Manchester City take a proactive stance when it comes to youth development in recent times, yet the City youth academy will be renowned for producing one of the greatest young footballers never to star for England; until they rewrite the wrongs on the past, Johnson was mentally underdeveloped for the elite level and his physical fragilities could have been better managed by the club, Manchester City will always have the stench of Michael Johnson’s unfulfilled potential lingering around their expensive and aesthetically pleasing youth facilities. The football legacy of Michael Johnson might be one of a great talent that never quite materialised, yet the man is living proof that the game can make or break a young man and only the strong survive either fate.
The life away from football has not been without front page headlines for the former England youth international as his personal life has been made a spectacle of by the media who seem fine with beating a man with his own broom while he is down; the player admitted to being under treatment for mental health issues for years, such are the challenges on the other end of the young superstar in the making spectrum. While he has successfully rebuilt his life away from football, Johnson now seeks to be left alone to live his life in peace and that is not too much to ask for a man that has taken enough stick to build a bonfire that could warm the Antarctica. Besides, not many real estate agents can boast the experience of having been a Premier League footballer to their list of accolades and Bob’s your FC Manchester shareholding uncle with a season ticket at Old Trafford.
DoB: March 3rd, 1988 (27)
PoB: Urmston, Trafford, Greater Manchester; England, United kingdom
Caps & Goals: N/A (England u/16, u/19 & u/21 International)
Position/s: Deep-Lying Playmaker, Box-To-Box Midfielder, Ball-Winning Midfielder
Height: 1, 83m
Preferred Foot: Right
Current Club: Free Agent
Market Value: R 5 600 000
Previous Clubs: Manchester City, Leicester City (loan)
Youth Clubs: Leeds United, SBV Excelsior, Everton, Manchester City
Career Club Record: 59 Games, 3 Goals, 6 Assists