Johnson dismisses fluke goal jibes and aims to make up for lost England time

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The Independent Online

Adam Johnson has yet to see a recording of his first international goal, a confidently struck left-footed finish that wrapped up England's 4-0 victory over Bulgaria, but his well-meaning friends have already told the Manchester City winger what to expect.

"I've had a lot of texts saying it was a fluke," said Johnson, confirming that the 23-year-old still has plenty of people around him who are quick to bring him back down to earth. Useful, since by his own admission, the last few months have been quite extraordinary for a player who exchanged life in the Championship with Middlesbrough for the riches of Eastlands last January, and has since acquired an emerging international career.

Not that the past year has been without its disappointments. The failure to make the cut from Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup was painful. "I just got a phone call from Franco Baldini saying 'sorry you did really well but you are not in the squad, so enjoy your holidays'," he said. "It was pretty sharp. I didn't really feel like talking. That was it really. I thought I was playing reasonably well. Maybe it came too soon, but I didn't see it that way at the time."

Capello revealed last month he simply felt Johnson was too raw to travel to South Africa, having admitted to feeling nervous during his six-minute debut against Mexico. "He said he didn't breathe during his game, he was so excited to play at Wembley," Capello said before the recent friendly with Hungary. "For this reason I thought he was not ready to stay with us. He was too young; he went from Middlesbrough in the Championship, to City."

Things have changed since then and having collected his third cap against Bulgaria, Johnson is one of the players entrusted by Capello with the job of freshening up the ageing and jaded squad that failed so miserably in South Africa this summer.

He is again expected to start on the bench against Switzerland in Basel tomorrow night, but his performance against Bulgaria will have helped persuade Capello that the winger is a player who can change games.

"It has been absolutely brilliant for me," said Johnson when he was reminded that this time last year he was on the losing side at Bristol City. "It has happened overnight. I always believed in myself that I could do it but at Middlesbrough it was hard.

"People thought I should be in the team but I had Stewart [Downing] in front of me. I sometimes thought I should have left earlier as I did not get a chance. I feel I am now making up for lost time."