Johnson is up to speed fast at City

Winger wins over fans on debut as push for top-four place gathers momentum
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The Independent Football

Life is child's play for Manchester City new-boy Adam Johnson at present. Just two games, and one start, into his Blues career, the £8m deadline-day arrival from Middlesbrough is already a fans' favourite.

With his second-half cameo against Hull at the weekend, and his man-of-the-match performance in the victory over Bolton last night, Johnson has erased memories of Robinho's dismal impact, as well as leapfrogging above fellow wide-men Shaun Wright-Phillips and Martin Petrov.

Yet, similar to Wayne Rooney, Johnson has a child-like attitude to the game. "You have got to enjoy playing," he said. "I try to play like I am still on the school playground."

Although born in Sunderland, he joined Newcastle's school of excellence as a kid and was inspired by the play of David Ginola. It is part of what makes him feel, no matter what stage he is appearing on, that he is still kicking a ball around with his mates back home.

"David Ginola was a big favourite of mine. He was just so good to watch," said Johnson, who will miss Saturday's FA Cup tie against Stoke after playing against City for Middlesbrough earlier in the season.

"It is a bit unfortunate that I am cup-tied on Saturday. It is a dream for me to play here and it is obviously still feels a bit weird. But I like it here, especially the nice, big pitch that has so much width to allow me to get at defenders."

Paul Robinson was the unfortunate victim last night, conceding the penalty that ultimately paved the way for three points that keeps City in the thick of that scrap for fourth.

More significant tests lie ahead and manager Roberto Mancini has already spotted a fixture list that follows those league and cup encounters with Stoke by pitching City into combat with Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Even the Italian accepts far more will be known about his side's durability following that run of fixtures.

"This month is crucial," he said. "After the FA Cup match we have a difficult away game at Stoke. Then we have three big games when we will see if we can get into the top four or not."

The one major plus for City is the form of Emmanuel Adebayor.

A £25million summer capture from Arsenal, Adebayor was electric in the opening weeks of the campaign, scoring four times in their first five matches.

Unfortunately, the Togo star also got himself embroiled in controversy and ended with missing three matches after raking his studs down the side of Robin van Persie's face.

Although Adebayor was able to end a two-month goal drought, his contribution had noticeably dipped before he went away for an African Nations Cup campaign that was shattered when he and his team-mates were shot at while travelling on a bus in Angola.

Yet the sense of purpose Adebayor now nurses as he remembers the three members of the backroom team who lost their lives, has got City motoring again.

His outstanding second-half goal last night was his third in as many games and took his tally for the season to nine.

"I'm just happy to be on a football pitch," he said. "When it happened, I told myself that I might never be on a football pitch again, that I might never score goals any more. But God took a hand.

"It took a while to get it out of my head but after Angola I am just happy to be on a football pitch. I have to play for the people who passed away now – every time you put the shirt on, you have to be scoring for them.

"I love scoring goals but whenever I do now, I say 'yes, you are scoring goals – you could be in a coffin now, you could be in Paradise'. It's very hard."

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