Bitter Johnson in the Red but can't resist parting shot at Jose

The Roman Abramovich era has made a substantial number of footballers rich young men and Glen Johnson can claim to have been the first. His particular Chelsea adventure was not a happy one, however, and rather than risk a similar outcome by returning there, he has indulged a childhood "soft spot" and headed north for the first time in his career, lured by the promise of regular football at Liverpool helping to secure his England place in a World Cup year.

When Chelsea paid West Ham £6m in July 2003 for an 18-year-old right-back, it was clear that the Abramovich era was going to be something completely different. By the start of the season a month later, Claudio Ranieri had spent another £104m and English football had changed forever. Johnson played in half the League games and made an England debut too, but Jose Mourinho's arrival 12 months later, followed by that of Paulo Ferreira, a £13m full-back, was bad news for him.

He remains bitter about it to this day. "I never got a chance and that can be demoralising," Johnson says. "I think I've proved a point because obviously Mourinho didn't believe in me and didn't think I was capable of doing what I did last season with Portsmouth. But people make mistakes. It gives me a little smile, though, that he never gave me a chance and yet here I am, a Liverpool player."

Ferreira's arrival was a particular blow. "He told me when he signed Paulo from Porto that it wouldn't be the end for me. But there was a lot of stuff he told me that wasn't true. There was a period when we had two games before meeting Barcelona in the Champions' League. Mourinho sat down with me with about five witnesses and said: 'If you play well in the first game you are going to keep the shirt.' I went out and got man of the match. So the next game came around and I am not even in the squad. What else could I have done? That is when I knew that I had to leave.

"I can't even remember what was my lowest point, to be honest, because there were so many. Every day I remember speaking to my mates and it was like I was getting paid to play football and playing football was the thing I did least. I was going into training and no matter how good I played I knew I wasn't going to play games. So where is the desire going to come from me? And there was no explanation. That kills you as a profes- sional footballer."

It was a dispiriting experience, which hampered his international prospects too, bringing only two further caps in the next two and a half years. Making one League appearance every three months in the 2005-06 season convinced him it was time to move on. A season-long loan at Portsmouth was followed by a permanent transfer.

The change was the making of him, for there was a belief in some quarters that having too much too young had affected his attitude too; an embarrassing episode involving the removal of a toilet seat from a B&Q store hardly spoke of a new maturity.

"Sixty to 70 per cent of people thought I would go to Portsmouth, fade away and never do anything," he now says. "A lot of players would have had an outburst or said something they would regret. I didn't. I was just thrown in at the deep end, but I think this helped turn me into the man I am now."

The footballer he is now has turned out to be England's best bet as a right-back, starting the last six internationals of the season and making four goals in the final game, against Andorra at Wembley.

Additionally, and unexpectedly, he proved a more than capable midfield player for Portsmouth, scoring the goal of the season on Match of the Day with a stunning volley at home to Hull City.

"I've proved a few critics wrong but I don't think I've made it in any way. I don't want to rest on my laurels," Johnson said at his unveiling on Thursday as a Liverpool player. He has cost them £17m, proving the fourth most expensive full-back in history behind such footballing glitterati as Daniel Alves, Lilian Thuram and Sergio Ramos.

It is a lot to live up to, which he is nevertheless better equipped to do than as a teenager whose head was turned by Chelsea.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried