Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Here Just for the Ride, Says Eager Johnson

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Here Just for the Ride, Says Eager Johnson

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER

ANDY JOHNSON is used to proving people wrong, so those who say he will be a one-hit England wonder should be careful.

The Crystal Palace striker admitted there were nerves when he joined up with the England squad for their first training session ahead of tomorrow's friendly international against Holland. But the butterflies in his stomach will be fluttering even more fiercely should Sven-Goran Eriksson decide to play him.

England teams down the ages are littered with strikers who have come in for a game or two, then been discarded, such as Garry Birtles and Michael Ricketts.

Johnson, though, has a steely determination to make an impression, to maximise his opportunity, to rise to the latest of the many challenges which have come his way.

A few seasons ago it would have been different. People were queuing up to write him off as "not good enough" or having a "suspect temperament". He was disenchanted, disillusioned and well down the pecking order at Birmingham.

It was then that Trevor Francis, who had seen the potential in the young man, decided to take him to Crystal Palace.

It was in South London that Johnson grew up, both as a player and a man.

"Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to go forward and that's what I have done," said the Palace striker.

"At Birmingham I would play a few games and then be back on the bench. I had come through the youth system and players like Geoff Horsfield or Tommy Mooney would always be picked ahead of me.

"It was different at Palace. I became the main striker and in my first full season I scored 14 goals in 30 games. I knew I had to knuckle down and work hard and that has been the difference.

"Yes, I was nervous before that first training session with England but as soon as the game started, I settled down. There are some very good strikers ahead of me, like Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Alan Smith, Darius Vassell, Jermain Defoe, but I'm not here for the ride. …

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