Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Boy Wonder?

Wow is this kid on fire or what?
Not only was he plying his trade with Championship Middlesbrough just eight months ago, but this was a man who was second best to Stewart Downing in what footballers know as the 'ideal development stage' of a professional performer.
Now he's in the World's Greatest league at one of the World's richest clubs, and after just four international appearances he has already bagged himself two special and vital goals in England's two Euro 2012 group qualification matches.
What is the one thing England have desired more than anything for years and years? That's right. A natural left-winger, and my God I think we've finally found him. For people who may be a tad slow or just lack any knowledge of football whatsoever, I have two words for you...Adam Johnson.

At the age of 23, Johnson's career and reputation has recently rocketed in what people are calling "England's Ryan Giggs". In 2005 Johnson tasted his first professional success, winning the FA Youth Cup in a Boro side which consisted David Wheater, Andrew Taylor and Tony McMahon, and since then his success on the pitch has become ever more present.

He spent an impressive six years at the Northern club, making his senior debut at the age of just 17 in March 2005, then six months later making his Premier League debut in a victory over League giants Arsenal.
Boro loaned the young boy out in 2006 to a struggling Championship side in Leeds United, and then in 2007 to Watford where he scored 5 goals in 12 games. After his departure from Vicarage Road, Watford's form drastically dipped. They say one man doesn't make a team, but it sounds to me that The Hornets missed Johnson's presence.
He continued on at Middlesbrough where his performances became more recognised, his attributes were fully shown and interest across the land was shown with Premier League Champions Chelsea and big-spending Manchester City were among many admirers.
He was a huge part of Boro's Championship side after the departure of Downing to Aston Villa, and scored three goals in the first three games of the season, then reaching double figures in December, and then a month later where he scored a terrific brace against strugglers Doncaster Rovers. In this season, one which would prove to be his last as a Boro player, he picked up North East Football Writers' Young Player of the Year award.
In the January transfer market of 2010 however, Johnson was sold to Manchester City where he signed a 4-year-deal for an undisclosed fee. On just his second appearance for the club against Bolton Wanderers, Johnson turned in a man of the match display before just two weeks later scoring his first goal in what turned out to be a 90th minute equaliser against his hometown club, Sunderland (Oh, and what a goal that was!)
His performances for City earnt him a call up to the England senior squad after previous appearances (and goals) for the U-19 and U-21 youth setups. He was named in Fabio Capello's 30-man preliminary squad for this year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa but unfortunately did not manage to get a plane ticket to the tournament. Dare I say it, but looking back now, what a mistake that probably turned out to be, although most of Capello's decisions were questionned during that dismal display. Enough about that disaster though. Onto the future!
Johnson made his England debut in a 3-1 home win against Mexico, coming on for his now-City teammate James Milner, then started his first game in the Three Lions jersey against Hungary where he played a full 90 minutes. Even as recent as this past week, and Johnson has quickly established himself as England's new weapon or even threat to opposition sides. He came on as a sub against Bulgaria in our country's first Euro qualifier, and scored in a 4-0 victory, then on Tuesday he came on after 10 minutes for the injured Theo Walcott and doubled our lead away to the defensively stubborn Switzerland, a game which we eventually went on to win 3-1.
Well that sums him up for now, but at the age of just 23, AJ has achieved a huge amount and is earning praise across the globe for his displays. A former Manchester United supporter growing up as a boy, it must pain some United fans to see such a craftsman at their fiercest rivals. Being a Chelsea fan myself, it frustrates me so badly why we didn't pursue him further in the transfer window because this boy is going to be huge, with terrific guidance in Robert Mancini and club support from such players as Gareth Barry, Kolo Toure and Shay Given, Johnson is going to be City's star in years to come, and let's hope, the Giggs of our England side.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Brilliant Bresnan bowls over Pakistan

Talk about a terrific bowling display. Tim Bresnan showed yesterday why he deserves his spot in the England Twenty20 and ODI side after an impressive spell of 3-10 off 3.4 overs in England's second Twenty20 victory over Pakistan.

Bresnan and Sussex captain Michael Yardy's spells proved to be England's most economical figures ever in T20 internationals, and despite no massive contribution from the batting line up, a reliable Eoin Morgan scored 18 not out to push England over the finish line with six overs remaining.
Pakistan, who won both their T20 matches against Australia in the summer, looked like a village team. Since the controversy in the newspapers over the spot-fixing allegations, the team has looked disjointed and lacking any kind of motivation despite the return of ODI captain Shahid Afridi and seam bowler Shoaib Akhtar to the setup.
Afridi won the toss, and surprisingly chose to bat in overcast conditions. This would be a decision he would later regret as Pakistan started in horrendous fashion losing Kamran Akmal in the second over then losing Mohammed Yousuf, opener Hasan and the captain himself in quick succession to be 22-4. Bresnan making a huge impact on the top order, and Broad supporting him with a combination of quick and short bowling forcing the Pakistanis to make huge misjudgements in their hook shots.
With young and in-form Umar Akmal at the crease Pakistan looked for some inspiration from the 20-year-old, and it looked promising after he played a Graeme Swann ball superbly back over the bowler's head for six. However, Umar's inexperienced showed the very next ball trying to attempt to smash the second best bowler in the world again, this time failing, missing a beautifully bowled off-break which rattled into the stumps. The batsman's reaction showed he was angry with himself. Swann's reaction was one which lacked emotion but one in which he was expecting the wicket to come sooner rather than later.
Despite not getting a wicket, Michael Yardy's bowling display proved to be valuable to England's attack on the Pakistan batting order, conceding only 10 runs in 4 overs. Another wicket for Swann, dismissing Fawad Alam for a golden duck, two for the expensive Sidebottom in consecutive balls, a run out and a final wicket for the on-form Bresnan wrapped up the innings, bowling Pakistan out for a tame 89.
England began brightly, and even though a maiden from Shoaib Akhtar who was consistently bowling over 90mph gave Pakistan some impetus in the early stages, a quickfire 16 from young Craig Kieswetter which included two fours and a glorious six over extra cover put England on the right track. Pakistan responded dismissing Steven Davies off the bowling of Akhtar, then he very next ball Umar hitting the stumps at the non-striker's end from point to end Kieswetter's promising start, a wicket which showed slight improvement in Pakistan's fielding.
A hesitant Ravi Bopara failed to pick up a quicker ball from Afridi and being trapped leg before, falling for 12 off 24 balls, and captain Paul Collingwood managed to get England up to 57 before edging straight to Hafeez at slip off the bowling of Ajmal to go for 21.
Enter Eoin Morgan and Yardy, whose partnership in the last T20 provided the winning runs, and this was the case again. Morgan hitting three fours in his 18 not out and Yardy providing steady support as England went on to secure a six wicket win, a result which puts the hosts in good stead for the five-match one-day series starting on Friday and leaving a demoralised Pakistan thinking what they can do to overcome the mess of the past two weeks.