City have confirmed that Michael Johnson was released from the club in December. The news comes as little surprise but it brings to a close a sad chapter for the player who was such an exciting prospect, regarded by many as the finest talent produced by City’s Academy in recent years.
Johnson made his debut on 21st October 2006 at the age of 18 but his career soon fell off the rails as he was blighted by injuries and developed an unhealthy lifestyle which has ultimately wasted his wonderful talent.
It wasn’t until the season of 2006-07 when Johnson established himself as one of the best players at City. In spite of Sven Goran-Eriksson littering a woeful City team with (then) exciting players such as Elano and Geovanni, Johnson stood out head and shoulders above most. His class was seemingly effortless and truly great to watch. He was a box to box midfielder with all the assets of one of the best: a great touch, passing ability and skill. He had it all. Before long he was affectionately named the “new Colin Bell” such was his quality and potential. In retrospect, the pressure of being mentioned in the same breath as a club legend before his career got out of first gear could have contributed to his downfall.
Johnson scores his first goal for City against Derby in 2006.
Having said that, even before Johnson was repeatedly crippled by injuries his off the field lifestyle left a lot to be desired. Sightings of Johnson enjoying the Manchester night life were all too frequent. His drinking habits were so widely reported that it was little wonder he was unable to recover properly from injuries and get his career moving again. At the beginning of the 2009-10 City posted a photo of an extremely overweight Johnson on the club website. It was a far cry from the player who burst onto the scene only a few years earlier.
Whether the pressure of being hailed as the next great coupled with an incredibly unlucky ability to pick up injuries was too hard to handle we’ll never be quite sure. But I can’t help but wonder if Johnson had applied himself more professionally whether he could have gone on to be a great player.
Johnson attempted a number of comebacks and even went out on loan in an effort to prove himself but never got anywhere close to full fitness. His last appearance for City was against Scunthorpe in the League Cup on 28th October 2009. Johnson was one of most talented players that the club has ever produced and it is a great shame that his talent has been wasted. Last night, a recent picture of an overweight Johnson went viral, prompting City’s announcement that the player had finally gone.