He arrived like a breath of fresh air and who can forget how he made Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reiner look stupid in his first derby match as he ran at the Liverpool defence again and again. Two goals and the famous ?3-0? sign seemingly sealed his fate as a Goodison legend in that match. His star was in the ascendancy and an England call up soon followed. The good times at Goodison were a serious possibility as long as AJ?s form continued.
Meanwhile, in the depths of North London, a certain Mr Wenger at a daily press conference, dropped a bomb on Andrew Johnson?s Everton career, from which the player never recovered. We had all known for some time that Wenger had been myopic as to his own team?s antics, whilst pointing out the faults in others. Of the Sky Four, he had proved himself the most intelligent and deep thinking of the managers. However, the exact motives of his words that day are known only to himself.
Maybe it was simply a slow news day at Arsenal and he was struggling for something to say. After all, we have all made throw away comments, some of which have had a much greater impact than we intended. And there again, maybe, just maybe, the wily Mr Wenger saw a very real threat in footballing terms to his team and decided to deal with it off the pitch.
His comments about Andrew Johnson being a diver had a dramatic and immediate impact. Had he sat in the main stand at Goodison with a sniper rifle in his hands, he could not have been more effective in stopping our greatest goal threat. Instead of being a potent attacking player with the ability to run at opposition defences in their own penalty area, Johnson overnight suddenly became Public Enemy Number One with referees.
Ridiculously obvious penalty appeals were waved away. Defenders were able to lean on him and actually use his blistering pace to their own advantage. This attitude spread like a cancer towards the team as a whole and the very thought of awarding a penalty to Everton with Johnson on the pitch became laughable.
After weeks of frustration, Johnson?s style of play appeared to change slightly as he struggled to readjust. He became reluctant to use his pace and started running wider, avoiding the minefield which had become the penalty area. When he did get an opportunity in front of goal, he started to snatch at chances before he could be tackled and meanwhile, penalty appeal after penalty appeal fell on deaf ears, as the men in black waved play on, seemingly intent on destroying what little confidence was left in the man.
Others waded into the debate, some negative, some positive. His previous chairman at Palace, Simon Jordan, was kind enough to say that the only person AJ ever dived on, was his wife. But in reality, the damage had been done and Andrew Johnson, the highly effective Everton striker, had been neutralised. After all, if the chairman of Palace says you?re a good bloke but the manager of Arsenal says you?re a cheat, there is only one winner.
In recent weeks, he has been described on our own websites as a ?headless chicken? and given other well thought out and intelligent labels. It seems that many Everton supporters have forgotten how our once record signing and the ?missing piece?? label which went with it, has been stopped in his tracks. Not by opposition defenders but by the words of a powerful man, who along with three other managers, enjoys an unhealthy share of publicity and influence. I feel horribly cheated that we only enjoyed his talents for a few months and both frustrated and concerned that a key player can be nullified in such a way.
The asked-for transfer to Fulham appears on the verge of going through and our threadbare squad will be further diminished so that we can afford to buy someone else, as yet unproven amongst our ranks. The heady days of that September demolition of Liverpool seem a thousand years away and it is a sobering reminder of how quickly things can change in football.
I personally wish Andrew Johnson all he best in his football career. He?s a class player, an honest pro and a willing runner and wherever he plies his trade, that team will benefit from his influence and ability. I don?t blame him for a moment if he wanted to leave. He has worked and worked since those fateful comments and yet even Everton supporters have now changed their tune.
We are all horribly biased but with the greatest respect, as a footballer, where would you choose to play, Goodison or Craven Cottage? A sea view is all very well but surely football must come into it somewhere? He himself realises he is a shadow of his former self and has to move on...
I don?t have the stats but would be very interested if any of you anoraks out there could tell me if he has ever won a penalty since Wenger?s comments. As they say, ?The pen is mightier than the sword.? Well, it certainly worked that day.
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1 Posted 01/08/2008 at 20:35:12
AJ is not as technically gifted as any of those and his confidence is certainly more fragile. That’s down to his personality and him alone.
However, like you, I wish him well.
2 Posted 01/08/2008 at 20:40:24
3 Posted 01/08/2008 at 20:31:46
4 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:01:17
5 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:14:02
I will miss AJ, his enthusiasm was infectious, we all shouted ’go on AJ’ whenever he was chasing a hopeless through ball into the channels, but we believed he could turn it into something, and he did on quite a few occasions. All the best AJ lad.
6 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:34:54
Wenger ruined a great talent by saying what he did, just because AJ was limited in his talents doesn’t mean he wasn’t talented. If defenders had been allowed to trip Lineker every time he ran into the box with no fear of reprisals he wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as the man we remember.
7 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:51:15
AJ is a one trick pony and blighted by lack of confidence. Wenger may have triggered the initial confidence loss but at the end of the day, AJ is an extremely limited striker without Lineker’s predatory intelligence.
I don’t think the comparison you make is valid
8 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:26:32
9 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:55:32
10 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:53:48
However many videos,Moyes produced in the little man’s defence,the fuss he made about Wenger’s remarks did more to put the guy under the spotlight and undermine his confidence than the original throwaway line!
In short,if AJ suffered a confidence problem ,Moyes did nothing to solve it which is what he’s paid 60K a week to do.
11 Posted 01/08/2008 at 21:58:14
If Lineker was tripped everytime he tried to get behind the defence, he wouldn’t have been able to cooly slot home. If he was physically knocked out of the way every time he went for the ball he wouldn’t have been able to poach from 6 yards.
No matter who the striker is take away any semblance of penalty for defenders the striker will not be able to score as many goals. Lineker was never put in the position of AJ but I believe he would have struggled, maybe not as much because he was a better player, but he would have struggled.
12 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:02:35
Its a great shame it hasnt worked out the way it could have..
Good luck for the future is all I can say and thanks for all the hard work, I guess Hibbert wont have anyone to lob the ball inot no-mans land anymore now.
13 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:01:58
14 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:06:01
I do agree that on the whole AJ was extremely hard done to. However, my other point was that a naturallly confident player would have carried on putting himself into those positions where even the most incompetent ref would have had to give a penalty eventually - something he increasingly avoided later on in the season.
15 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:14:24
16 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:16:19
The one thing we all cry out for in a player is the ability to run at defenders and AJ had that in spadefuls. His head didn’t used to drop if he missed a sitter because he new he would get a load more chances, now when he gets through the defence without going down he knows he probably won’t get another chance because next time he will get tripped so when he misses it is much more frustrating.
17 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:39:53
From the point of view of effort / genuineness, I actually liked the guy!
18 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:40:53
In an ideal world, we would have played with two wingers and Beattie would be getting his head on most things with Johnson feeding on the scraps. Unfortunately, Moyes narrow, condensed style of play and the arrival of the Yak has made both of those players surplus to requirements.
I do wish Andy Johnson all the best in his future career. He has always been an honest, hard-working and committed player for us and his winning goals against Liverpool and Arsenal will live long in the memory. Considering our current system and the price that Fulham are (hopefully) prepared to pay though, it’s a no-brainer to move him on and to try and reinvest in the squad, plumping it up with players with their best years still ahead of them
19 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:56:21
20 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:52:27
One final point - didn?t Mourinho add his tuppence worth and one or two other managers after Wenger's comments?
21 Posted 01/08/2008 at 22:28:55
22 Posted 01/08/2008 at 23:18:55
23 Posted 01/08/2008 at 23:15:17
24 Posted 02/08/2008 at 03:41:48
25 Posted 02/08/2008 at 06:07:30
26 Posted 02/08/2008 at 08:06:41
All the players you mentioned above from the past prove it. AJ done a lot of the horsework for the Yak which meant half of the time he was almost like a winger. I do actually disagree about AJ and Yak not being able to play as a two, I think they were just not given many opportunities to do so because Everton don't have the personnel to play that formation. I seem to remember they linked up okay in Yak's debut at Bolton and also against Brann at Goodison when okay you can talk about the opposition being dreadful all you want but you still have to score the goals.
The thing that does frighten me a bit is the fact that, once AJ has gone, so has the pace, and it was a great outlet as, even when AJ didn't score, it still gave the opposition a major pain in the arse to think about. As for someone who once said AJ hits a ball weakly. I recall power shots against Brann and I also wouldn't call his left-foot winner against Arsenal a powder puff..
All we can say is good luck to AJ and I think it will not really sink in with us that unless we find a striker of similar speed that, come the start of the season, we will miss the outlet he used to give us. As someone says there is just no point in lumping balls into no-man's land for Yak, he just will not chase them and more to the point why should he? He is a goalscorer and we want him to score goals. If he starts doing the work AJ did out on the wings, then his goal tally will suffer for it also. I don't know about anyone else but I would much rather he did little work and got 20-25 goals a season than sweated bucket loads every match to finish the season with less than 10 goals. Forgive me but isn't the object of football scoring goals?
What we damn well should have been looking for this summer was some genuine wide men with a bit of quality so our strikers didn't have to be Ryan Giggs on the wing.
27 Posted 02/08/2008 at 08:52:02
Tiger Woods would be a good example to Andrew Johnson of what a sportsman can achieve if he/she actually has faith and belief in their OWN ability...
It's as important a trait as any....
28 Posted 02/08/2008 at 08:56:20
29 Posted 02/08/2008 at 11:10:43
Absolutely right mate. It was Warnock who got the ball rolling after the Claude Davis incident at Goodison. Wenger got more publicity for making the same point as Warnock and even Mourinho jumped on the band wagon shorlty after.
I think we should blame Sky to be honest! Sky is the new Heysel it appears. We once blamed Heysel for being crap now we blame Sky.
30 Posted 02/08/2008 at 11:27:44
AJ is a similar class of striker to Marcus Bent. Whilst watching Graham Poll rob us again at WBA a few years back, two toffees infront of me said: "Bent has all the qualities you look for in a striker, except the ability to score". Kinda fits with AJ too.
31 Posted 02/08/2008 at 12:02:09
Even at this time, with the squad we have, there are many "pieces" still to be found.It takes more than two goals in a derby match to endear me to a player - although derby goals do seem enough for some fans - Cadamarteri anyone?
When Moyes signed AJ, he was as good as we could get at that time. For me he is a slightly better Radzinski in that his work rate is spot on. Like Radzinski he lacks composure - if he has to think about it he will miss.
For me, it's thanks for your time - fair play to Moyes in looking to up the quality stakes now that our profile in Europe has improved.
Don't suppose Fulham need a right back with size 5 feet - would love to see Hibbert on his way too!
32 Posted 02/08/2008 at 12:19:00
But I hope if and when Johnson returns he gets a great reception. It?s a curious age in a curious sport. We?d like players to be loyal, but if we deem them ?not good enough? then loyalty doesn?t come into it.
33 Posted 02/08/2008 at 13:40:45
34 Posted 02/08/2008 at 18:11:27
The point being that Wenger's criminal comments caused Johnson to adjust his play, much to the detriment of his game and his perception in the eyes of the fans, coupled with the fact that the service he recieved was shocking to say the least (and if anyone thinks that any striker they care to name wouldn't suffer in that team then they should seek professional help). Please, fellow Blues, get your facts right (unless you are all KIrby yes voters in which case you are a lost cause).
ps: I'm not a Johnson fan, I thought he had a chronic touch and no left foot.
35 Posted 02/08/2008 at 22:01:15
36 Posted 03/08/2008 at 00:50:56
37 Posted 03/08/2008 at 03:20:52
Shame I’m not writing fiction here. Thanks Andy Hegan for your post. The point of the article was the ability of the Sky 4 to manipulate our national sport in any way they like. Someone mentioned them being the new Heysel.
What drives me mad is that mere football alone doesn’t impact the results in the way that it should.
Naive? Yeah, probably but SOME sort of level playing field would be nice.
38 Posted 03/08/2008 at 10:48:37
1. AJ gave us unforgettable moments of joy and of and for that I shall be ever mindful and grateful. However, as with Marcus Bent before him, he just wasnt clinical enough in front of goal, willing runners though they were. Mental toughness is almost a prerequisite in this league now, and if you dont have it you will be found out. I read a series Neville Southall did on the OS recently in which he said that the expectation levels at Everton were too much for some keepers to handle and that this in turn drained their confidence even further. I imagine the same is true with AJ.
2. Any comparison between AJ and Lineker on any level is laughable in the extreme and shouldnt even be so much as suggested. The epitome of ?chalk and cheese?. Now take it back and behave.
39 Posted 03/08/2008 at 12:04:55
Andy Hegan, it didn't seem to affect the Yak too much - should I book an appointment at Rodney Street?
The difference? Class and composure!