Moving to Manchester was an unwise choice
24 May ~ Adam Johnson spent his formative years at Middlesbrough, deputising for Stuart Downing. Judging by Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 selection, very little has changed. Despite failing to score or provide an assist since his high-profile switch from Aston Villa to Liverpool, it is Downing that made the cut, with Johnson a mere standby. Downing's inclusion was expected as he has featured regularly for club and country this season, whereas Johnson appears infrequently for Manchester City. If anything, he is fortunate to be chosen as a back-up option, with the likes of Aaron Lennon missing out altogether.
Johnson is clearly a second class citizen at Manchester City. If his England omission does not act as a catalyst for personally addressing his current malaise, then surely nothing will.
As an aggressive, left-footed winger, the Ryan Giggs comparison was inevitable, with both Roberto Mancini and Stuart Pearce making the association at some stage. "I remember Ryan Giggs when he was young and the way he moved. Johnson is the same player," Mancini revealed at Johnson's Manchester City unveiling. "He is probably a Ryan Giggs of his time."
Then England coach Pearce subsequently claimed a few months later, when Johnson was selected in Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man World Cup squad: "He has something unique about him. Johnno is not the completed article but he is an improving player and that is a fantastic thing to be."
Johnson would be afforded more opportunities if he were playing for United, where a pair of wingers are traditionally employed. Johnson is City's only conventional winger for a reason. They tend to rely on their full-backs for width, with David Silva and Samir Nasri utilised wide and exhibiting a tendency to cut inside, with mixed results despite a successful campaign.
Johnson started four consecutive Premier League games in February and City won all four, albeit against Fulham, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Bolton. Yet Silva and Nasri remain first choice, with James Milner and Johnson favoured for weaker opposition. With designs on Eden Hazard, future appearances in the first team are likely to become increasingly scarce.
Entering the final few months of his contract at Middlesbrough, Johnson chose to join Manchester City in the January transfer window rather than remain at Boro until the end of the season. Had the calibre of his new employers been less attractive, he may have remained. But the decision was at least partly motivated by a desire to improve his chances of international selection ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.
It almost paid dividends; he made the provisional squad put failed to make the final cut. Had he secured a loan spell this season, it may have made all the difference.
Johnson has transmitted conflicting messages this season regarding his supporting role at the club. "I've been awfully disappointed that I haven't played many games," in contrast with: "If you want to win trophies, players will tell you it's all about the depth and strength of the squad. At the end of your career it's all about what you have won and who you played for."
Mancini has followed suit by criticising Johnson publicly and withdrawing him early in several high-profile matches this season. Yet the City boss also awarded him a new deal in November. Having not started him in a game since the beginning of March, Mancini has recently expressed more impatience and disappointment at Johnson's inconsistency. Although, by selecting him infrequently, Mancini could be accused of compounding the problem.
Manchester City's recent turnover of players has been rapid. If Mancini decides to make Johnson available for transfer, it is believed that Martin O'Neill is keen to reunite him with his home town. It may prove to be Johnson's salvation. Scott Johnson