England Set to Hand AJ His Chance; Johnson's Dream of an International Call Could Be Sealed If He Impresses Sven Scout Tomorrow

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 4, 2005 | Go to article overview
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England Set to Hand AJ His Chance; Johnson's Dream of an International Call Could Be Sealed If He Impresses Sven Scout Tomorrow


Byline: LEO SPALL

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON will send a scout to watch Andrew Johnson for one last time tomorrow before he names the England squad to face Holland.

The head coach and his right-hand man, Tord Grip, have both checked up on the Crystal Palace striker and there are strong indications he will be included.

Johnson, the top-scoring Englishman in the Premiership with 15 goals, has impressed with his strike record and work-rate and Alan Smith's ankle injury is likely to pave the way for his first call-up.

The Manchester United striker has been sidelined for three weeks and is not expected to be risked in Wednesday's friendly at Villa Park.

But Johnson will still need to perform well for Palace against Bolton at Selhurst Park tomor row lunchtime as Eriksson weighs up his options ahead of his 7pm squad announcement that evening.

Grip said: "I have watched Johnson and I liked what I saw. He has scored a lot of goals this season, works hard and is not easy to play against.

He has definitely got a chance.

"We will leave the final squad decisions until after all the games tomorrow.

We will have a scout at Palace and it will be good to have another look at Johnson."

Palace's 23-year-old goalscorer has come to Eriksson's attention despite playing alone up front for most of the season in a side fighting for survival.

He scored 32 goals in the First Division last season and, under the guidance of manager Iain Dowie, has made the step up with aplomb.

Bedford-born Johnson is still improving and knows he faces stiff competition with Smith, Michael Owen, Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney becoming an established quartet of strikers in the England squad.

But he may also have the option of playing for Poland through family connections if his chance for England does not come.

Grip said: "We are aware of his potential Polish qualification but we have not thought about that. If he has a chance to play for England I am sure he will do that."

Should Johnson win his first cap against Holland it would not preclude him from playing for Poland because it is not a competitive game.

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