Football: Young and old make an impact
Birmingham City 1 Bury 0
Monday 07 September 1998
ANDREW JOHNSON was still in nappies when Bruce Grobbelaar won the first of his six League Championships with Liverpool 16 years ago. Now, as the latest speedy teenager to be saddled with the `new Michael Owen' epithet prepares to be thrown into Birmingham's injury-stricken attack for his first league start, the clown prince of goalkeepers is wondering whether his 742nd senior appearance was his last.
Grobbelaar won more major trophies in his Anfield career, which started precisely 30 days after Johnson was born in 1981, than these two clubs in their entire histories put together. And, even nudging 41 years of age, the Bury stand-in suggested, on his one-day sabbatical from Ryman League duty, that he is still a highly capable goalkeeper. But on Saturday he was merely deputising for the Republic of Ireland's reserve custodian Dean Kiely, and he cannot find regular work in the Nationwide League.
Johnson, by contrast, looks about to enjoy more first-class employment than expected. Dele Adebola was injured while colliding with Grobbelaar in scoring Birmingham's winner, his sixth of the season and the first Bury have conceded in 574 minutes of doughty League action. Adebola then hobbled away to a congested treatment table to give Johnson his home debut.
Now Trevor Francis, himself once the teenage prodigy of St Andrew's, is considering unleashing the England Under-18 call-up on Stockport County tomorrow night. "Young Andrew (echoes of the teenager eulogies favoured by coaches these days) had a very good second half, with his pace and movement," said the Birmingham manager. "I have a problem now, as I may be without my three top goalscorers if Dele's calf doesn't respond. But, if I have to start with Andrew, I will be quite happy to do so."
Johnson has been likened to Owen by Birmingham's director of youth Brian Eastick, and against Bury he showed good touch, pace and, in bringing the save of the match from an overworked Grobbelaar, a powerful shot. But this was his second bit-part appearance. Afterwards, the 5ft 4in former Luton schoolboy was quizzed about his similarities to Owen. Please... give the lad a break. Let the comparisons wait until he has done something.
Grobbelaar, meanwhile, is not the new anybody: he is simply the old Grobbelaar. Unfamiliar team-mates ahead of him huffed and puffed, then eventually kicked and elbowed to try and get back into a shapeless game, and were fortunate only Andy Woodward was sent off, after he tripped Steve Robinson. The Zimbabwean veteran, who currently earns pounds 200 a game with Chesham United, was meanwhile in sharp form.
"I haven't lost my agility and when you get to my age the first 10 yards is in your head. I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good as I ever was," he said, with a conviction suggesting zen-like wisdom. "It's better playing in front of big crowds, because with the small crowds you can hear what they are saying.
"I'm still hungry and I hope I've done myself justice today. If I don't get back into the League this way, I might try management." If Kiely is required by Ireland again next month, Grobbelaar might well be available. If Johnson is still involved for Birmingham, then his early promise will be worth evaluating.
Goal: Adebola (19) 1-0.
Birmingham City: Bennett; Rowett, Ablett, M Johnson, Grainger; Robinson, Marsden (Holland, 77), O'Connor, Hughes (Purse, 83); Adebola (A Johnson, h-t), Forster.
Bury: Grobbelaar; Woodward, Lucketti, Redmond, Swailes, Barrick; Foster (Matthews, 28), Daws (Patterson, 83), Johnrose; D'Jaffo (Ellis, 81), Preece.
Referee: F Stretton (West Bridgford).
Bookings: Bury: Barrick. Sending off: Bury: Woodward.
Man of the match: Grobbelaar.
Latest in Sport
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Xabi Alonso to be quizzed before £18m Asier Illarramendi bid; Battle on for Rickie Lambert
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City, United want Gareth Bale
Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0 player ratings: Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla? Who stole the show at the Emirates Stadium?
Chelsea vs Manchester City player ratings: David Silva saves the day but which City star stole the show at Stamford Bridge?
Kim Sears 'swearing' outburst threatens to overshadow Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final win
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 4 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
- 5 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...