Fighting for survival

Published : Jan 12, 2012 00:00 IST

Roger Johnson looks set for another survival battle this season with Wolves floundering at the wrong end of the table. The defender needs to rediscover his best form quickly — for his sake and the team's.

A year is a long time in football. Only last season Roger Johnson was being tipped for an England call-up, yet now he is struggling to keep hold of his Wolves place.

Johnson moved to Molineux in the summer for a reported GBP7 million after Birmingham's relegation and was immediately made club captain by manager Mick McCarthy, replacing fans' favourite Karl Henry in the process.

The former Cardiff centre-half was seen as a replacement for the ageing Jody Craddock in Wolves' backline, but his recent form has resulted in Craddock being recalled and Johnson being dropped to the substitutes' bench.

He has been quick to hit out at the fans this season after hearing dissenting voices towards his new manager and the man he replaced as captain. When Henry was substituted, a section of Wolves fans were heard ironically cheering the decision. This enraged Johnson who labelled his new supporters “disgusting”. However, Johnson has himself become a target for angry fans who have been far from impressed with some of his positioning and decision-making this season. He allowed Jonas Gutierrez, the Newcastle winger, to waltz past him easily on his way to scoring in a defeat and also put through his own net in a game against Liverpool.

That led to McCarthy bringing Craddock back into the team, but the veteran defender pulled him hamstring in the game and Johnson has been given another chance.

Johnson has worked hard to be able to visit grounds such as Stamford Bridge, where he had a season ticket as a youngster, and has built his reputation as a no-nonsense defender by starting at the bottom of the professional ladder.

He began his career at Adams Park and spent seven years with Wycombe after joining their youth set-up from Portsmouth. Shortly after his 17th birthday, Johnson made his debut and in doing so became the youngest player to represent Wycombe in league football at the time.

When Tony Adams took over as manager, it should have been a move that suited Johnson perfectly. He was a defender in the same style as the Arsenal legend and working so closely to him should have been a valuable learning tool.

However, Johnson failed to retain a starting berth during Adams' brief tenure. Perhaps fortunately for the player, former England international Adams was soon sacked and replaced by John Gorman who gave Johnson a new deal and made him captain.

Johnson went on to be a crucial component of the Wycombe defence, as well as in the opposition area where he scored seven times in his final season, earning him a move to south Wales in 2006.

After a season of integration in which he made 26 starting appearances, he became a regular in the Cardiff defence and was part of the team that missed out on the play-off places on goals scored in the 2008/9 season. However, his performances that season persuaded Alex McLeish to spend GBP5 million to take him to Birmingham, who had won promotion that season. His committed performances alongside Scott Dann soon rewarded the Scottish manager's faith in a player that had never previously played at the highest domestic level.

Johnson was soon catching the eye of fans across the country as he flung himself in front of every shot and into every tackle as Birmingham surprised the whole league by finishing ninth.

The following season saw Johnson win his first piece of silverware as Birmingham lifted the Carling Cup, but their league form was not as good and they suffered relegation on the last day of the season.

Johnson made it clear he did not want to drop back down to a division he had spent years trying to get out of and his wish to stay in the top flight was granted when Wolves came in for him. He looks set for another survival battle this season with Wolves floundering at the wrong end of the table, and Johnson needs to rediscover his best form quickly — for his sake and the team's.

Married to Melissa, an actress who ironically appeared in the TV show Footballer's Wives. They have one daughter named Brooke.

FACTFILEName: Roger JohnsonPosition: DefenderClub: Wolverhampton WanderersD.O.B: 28/04/1983

Moment to remember: Winning the Carling Cup with Birmingham amidst clamours for him to be called up to the England national side.

Moment to forget:

Being repeatedly left out of a team managed by a legend in your position must have knocked Johnson's confidence during his time under Tony Adams at Wycombe.

© PA Sport, 2012, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.

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