Michael Johnson and the Manchester City and England career that was never realised

Manchester City announce midfielder has been released

At the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City’s greatest players are emblazoned around the ground.

This form of tribute allows fans of all generations to reflect on the greatest players to ever adorn the City crest in the blue half of Manchester.

One of those names featured is Paul Lake; the former England Under-21 captain who was forced to retire in 1996 after snapping his cruciate ligament six years earlier.

He was just 27.

The tale of Lake is a tragic one given the enormous struggle he endured just to return to the game he loved; he ruptured the cruciate in his right leg on three occasions and went through 17 operations to save his injured knee.

And 17 years on from Lake’s retirement, it appears Michael Johnson’s top-flight footballing career has reached its conclusion.

Pictures will reveal a bloated and appallingly unfit snapshot of Johnson, a stark contrast to the 19-year-old who Sven-Goran Eriksson once said he would not even swap for Steven Gerrard.

The parallels between Lake’s retirement and Johnson’s release from Manchester City, confirmed today, are all too obvious; footballers with huge promise, schooled at the club, only to never fulfill their projected potential.

In truth, they could not be more dissimilar.

Underneath Lake’s name at the Etihad are the years he featured for the club: 1987-1992.

Although he would formally retire four years after his final appearance for the club in August 1992, Lake’s final years for the club saw depression and rehabilitation undermine his later seasons at the club he had supported since childhood.

He was given a five-year contract in 1990 and made club captain, a move indicating something special for both Lake and Manchester City but sadly a few months later his career was over.

A seemingly innocuous challenge with Aston Villa’s Tony Cascarino ruled Lake out for almost two years and when he returned his cruciate ligament snapped against Middlesbrough in just his second game back.

At 23, he would never play again.

Johnson made his debut in 2006 but rose to prominence under Eriksson in the 2007-08 campaign, scoring the winner enriched with elegance against Derby County in the first home fixture of the season.

The midfielder never did earn an England cap, but this breakthrough campaign along with two caps at under-21 level denoted he was not far off it.

Nor was Lake; who made six appearances for the under-21s and was part of Sir Bobby Robson’s provisional squad for Italia ’90 but was cruelly denied the chance to play his part in England’s most successful World Cup since 1966.

Johnson began the following season strongly; under new manager Mark Hughes he appeared in City’s opening seven games of the season but that was when his troubles began.

An abdominal injury, followed by a double-hernia operation, saw him make just one further appearance that season.

He began the 2009-10 campaign fit and back in Hughes’ first-team plans and likewise Lake 19 years before, signed a five-year contract with the club.

And similarly to Lake, Johnson was rumoured to move to Anfield; Liverpool made bids for both players but were rebuffed, allowing their promising English talents to remain in sky blue.

Johnson’s career, though, was embarking on its rapid deterioration.

A recurrence of his abdominal injury meant he featured just twice that season and not at all the following campaign.

The nature of his injury meant he lost his shape and physique during this period, and he was seen to be enjoying more than the occasional night out.

In 2011/12, he linked up with Eriksson at Leicester on a season-long loan but was sent back in January last year, with two and a half years left on his contract at the Etihad.

His last appearance for Manchester City came in September 2009, scoring in a 5-1 League Cup victory over Scunthorpe.

He was still only 21.

Johnson has not been a star at Manchester City for a long time now and was nowhere to be seen during the club’s Premier League title celebrations with Roberto Mancini’s team last season.

In fact, prior to the bloated photo released, the last we had seen of Johnson was a drink-driving charge which saw him banned for three years.

The comparisons between Lake and Johnson are obvious given their City connections but while the former was tragically robbed of his talent, the latter stupidly wasted his.

Johnson comes under a long list of players who possess a wealth of talent but simply cannot match that with the application required to become a successful sportsman.

Upon his arrival into the England set-up in 1989, Lake was told: 'Don't get too good, mind. I'm not having you nicking my f***in' place.'

Who delivered the message? Paul Gascoigne.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map