England in Johnson’s mind

Within six months of joining the Blues, Johnson had developed

sufficiently to gain a place in Fabio Capello’s provisional World

Cup squad. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, he did not impress

enough during a training camp in Austria to force his way into the

23-man party Capello eventually took to South Africa. Now a regular

member of the Three Lions set-up, there should be no issue about

his place at Euro 2012. However, having only made sporadic

appearances for the Blues this season, and quite often as a

substitute, doubts have been creeping in. “I was speaking to my dad

about that,” he said. “It is in the back of my mind because I know

Fabio Capello likes players to be playing every week. “It’s a major

thing for me, to try and go there, having missed out on the World

Cup. “I want to play in these major tournaments. “I don’t think

I’ve missed a squad under Capello, apart from when I was injured,

so I would be gutted to miss out after playing quite a big part in

the campaign. “Obviously there’s a lot of competition, so I want to

try and play week in and week out and definitely have a place on

that plane.” So keen is Johnson to cement his place that before

Wednesday’s win over Stoke he was giving serious consideration to

sounding out Roberto Mancini for a moan about his lack of time on

the pitch. The statistics make sobering reading. In the 11 games

prior to the Stoke encounter, Johnson had started just once, in the

Carling Cup quarter-final win at Arsenal on November 29. He had

been an unused substitute on three occasions and his total playing

time in the other seven amounted to just two hours. It is hardly

the best shop window, even if Johnson has been able to score twice.

However, instead of banging on Mancini’s door, the former

Middlesbrough man remained silent and was rewarded with a not only

a starting spot against Stoke, but a rare opportunity to complete a

full 90 minutes. “I’ve been awfully disappointed that I haven’t

played as many games,” he said. “Everyone wants to play in all the

games and I was thinking about speaking to the manager because I

hadn’t started since the Carling Cup. “It plays on my mind a bit. I

don’t mind the rotation system as long as it’s fair. “Hopefully

that’s going to continue now. I’ve scored five goals in five

starts. That’s all I can keep doing.” It has often seemed like

Mancini gets irritated with Johnson given the number of times he

has singled the winger out for criticism. As he was the first new

arrival of Mancini’s reign two years ago, the pair do have a unique

bond, and the Italian insists his words are aimed at galvanising a

player he feels is capable of going beyond his present standards.

“He can criticise as well as praise you,” said Johnson. “That’s

what he does and I’ve never had a problem with that. “I am not the

type of lad to let those things bother me. “I take it on board and

continue to work hard on my game in training. “It’s great to hear

(Mancini investing so much time in him) because since I came here

everything has changed. “I’ve played for England, I’m playing for a

massive team and winning medals so I can’t complain how my career

has gone so far.” After collecting just a single point from their

last two away games, albeit incredibly tough ones at Liverpool and

Chelsea, City aim to find winning form again at West Brom on Boxing

Day. They need to as Manchester United are starting to breathe down

their necks, although that has not come as a surprise to Johnson.

“You can never write United off,” he said. “They will always be

there and will never give up.”