Johnson pledges Palace allegiance

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The Independent Online

Andrew Johnson insists he has no intention of leaving Crystal Palace should they be relegated from the Premiership.

Despite 18 goals from Johnson in the League, bettered only by Thierry Henry, the Eagles remain entrenched in a relegation battle. The 24-year-old has repeatedly been linked with a big-money move away from Selhurst Park, with Liverpool and Newcastle United reported to be tracking the England squad player.

But despite all the speculation about his future, Johnson maintains that he has no plans to abandon ship should the Eagles fail to stay up. "If we go down, I'm not going to walk out on all the boys I've been friends with all these years," he said. "The boys have been integral to my success and I dedicate all my goals to them.

"It is a pleasure to be linked with clubs like Newcastle and Liverpool and it just shows that I must be doing something right - but I'm dedicated to Palace. It's the place where I want to be and where I'm scoring my goals.

"I knew when I signed my five-year deal at the start of the season that if I scored 20 goals and became noticed, I was still saying for five years.

"It's not a matter of, 'If we go down I'm going to leave the club'. That's not how I think. If we go down I want to be the player to get the club back up. I'm not a 'big-time Charlie'."

Johnson recently won his first call-up to the national squad, although injury forced him to withdraw from the subsequent World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

The former Birmingham City man accepts that playing for a club outside the top flight might affect his international career, but believes it would provide an extra incentive for him to stay on the goal trail and help guide the Eagles back up.

"I'm always ambitious and always want to play for England. Of course, being in the Championship might not give me as good a chance, but I have dedicated myself to the club," Johnson told Shoot Monthly magazine. "I want to stay and if we are down, I will still want to play for England, so it will be up to me to get the club promoted as soon as possible."

The Palace manager, Iain Dowie, accepts speculation surrounding his striker is unlikely to abate, especially if the club is relegated. "I think we can realistically keep Andy because he has got five years on his contract left.

"It's no good hiding away from it, Andy is very much the future of this club. The chairman has reiterated that he doesn't want to sell him and that is fantastic news for the club.

"Speculation, if it goes the wrong way, will pick up pace, but let's worry about keeping ourselves as a Premiership club and then we will deal with that when it comes around."

Johnson has not scored for three Premiership matches, despite several good chances falling his way. Dowie, though, says it is not a case of him finally feeling the pressure of being the man charged with finding the goals to keep Palace up. "I made the point to him in training that as long he keeps getting in the area and getting attempts in on goal, then that pleases me."

The Norwich City manager, Nigel Worthington, has called on his players to shed their "nice guy" image without delay if they are to have any chance of clawing their way to safety - starting with the visit of Manchester United this weekend.

Worthington was less than impressed by the way Arsenal recorded a convincing 4-1 victory at Highbury on Saturday without really getting out of first gear as Henry fired in a hat-trick during a fifth consecutive League defeat for the Canaries.

With Norwich adrift at the bottom of the table and effectively eight points from safety because of inferior goal difference, Worthington insists it is time for his men to be "putting bodies on the line" as they look to escape from relegation.

"What I'm looking for this Saturday is for the players to go out there with fire in their bellies - I want an 'up and at 'em' performance," Worthington said. "We have got seven games to go, we've got everything to gain and nothing to lose. Let's go for it. We've got to play as though we are putting our bodies on the line, we've got to put our heads in where our feet should go, get our headers in, our tackles in.

"We've got to get in amongst it, make things happen for ourselves and enjoy it.

"That's all got to come out in the mini-league of seven games and if we can get good points out of those games, with a mental toughness, a positive strive, people playing their hearts out for Norwich City, playing for their own pride, we can do it."

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