Johnson can be 'new Lineker'

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The Independent Football

Manchester City's manager, Stuart Pearce, has predicted Andrew Johnson could enjoy the same success at Everton as Gary Lineker.

It is 21 years now since Lineker carved out a niche for himself in Everton folklore, scoring 38 goals in his single season at Goodison Park before leaving to join Barcelona. Already Johnson is making a sizeable imprint of his own.

Signed by David Moyes from Crystal Palace for £8.6m this summer, Johnson has scored five times, and represents the major threat to City, who head to Everton tomorrow looking to end an abysmal run of 10 defeats in their 11 away games in all competitions.

"When I saw Andrew had signed for Everton, I felt he might have the same impact up there as Gary Lineker," said Pearce. "He is an out-and-out goalscorer, proven in the Premiership and all the things I hear about him, in terms of being a team player, are good. If Everton create chances for him, Andrew will score because he is an absolute natural."

Johnson's explosive start to the season means he is a virtual certainty to be named in Steve McClaren's England squad for next week's Euro 2008 double-header with Macedonia and Croatia. Even with Wayne Rooney available again, there must be a chance the 25-year-old will make his first competitive start.

"I am sure Andrew will be consistently around the England squad this season and be in it more times than he is not," said Pearce. "But what he has to do is make the breakthrough from being in the international pool to being a regular in the side."

With Ousmane Dabo back from suspension and Hatem Trabelsi likely to be available after a recent groin injury, Pearce is pondering a revolutionary change in formation this weekend.

Although Pearce does not normally believe in changing a winning team, he is conscious of the urgent need to start picking up points away from Eastlands. So, two of the stars of last weekend's win over West Ham - the midfielder Ishmael Miller and Georgios Samaras, who scored both City's goals - are faced with the axe as Pearce looks to deploy a five-man midfield, which will have Dabo, Dietmar Hamann and Joey Barton in the central positions.

"I don't feel the players are under any type of psychological strain because of our away results but I do believe we have to do things differently in terms of the way the team lines up," said Pearce.

"We have lost three away games in the League already and now we need to win one. I might have to tinker with the players and the formation to achieve it. This is the first time I will have had Dabo, Hamann and Barton available together and the significance of that will be evident."