Adam Johnson will meet with Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini for the first time today. In an exclusive interview, the former Boro winger told Paul Fraser about his hopes for the future after moving to England’s biggest spenders.
WHEN Adam Johnson drove into Rockliffe Park on Monday morning, he knew exactly what he had to do.
Instead of heading into the changing room to prepare for training, he walked straight in to see Gordon Strachan. He had something he wanted off his chest.
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Having spent the majority of his time since scoring a double in the win at Doncaster a week ago wondering what life would be like at Manchester City, Johnson had decided the time was right to outline his intentions.
“I went to see the manager to tell him I would like the opportunity to talk with Manchester City,” said Johnson, fully aware of the substantial offers coming in from Eastlands since that night in South Yorkshire.
But rather than be told his wish would not be granted, Strachan surprisingly replied ‘I know you would; leave it with me.’ Boro’s stance had softened. A deal was going to take place and Johnson was about to leave the club where it all started for him at the age of 13.
It was not that Strachan wanted to lose Johnson; he did not want to stand in his way after accepting the offer – an initial £6m rising to £8m – was probably more than they would receive at a tribunal in the summer.
“He knew how I felt and he knew I wanted this opportunity to play for a big team. He is a top, top man and he was fantastic to work for,” said Johnson.
“There might be Middlesbrough fans doubting him, but I think he is a terrific manager. All I can talk about is the way he treated me. He is hard but fair. He has been absolutely brilliant with me and my family.
“I had a great relationship with Gordon Strachan and when I spoke to him to say I was on my way for a medical he said ‘I told you, you could trust me.’ I know that I will stay in touch with him. Whenever I need advice I will call him.
“Gordon Strachan wanted me to stay, let’s make that clear, and he told me that plenty of times, but he knew what I wanted.”
Johnson’s final days at Boro might have been frustrating, waiting for his perfect move to happen, but he was keen to stress he will always have an emotional tie with the club.
He was keen to pay special thanks to Ron Bone, the man responsible for taking him to Boro as a raw teenager after impressing for Cleveland Juniors, and also acknowledge the work Dave Parnaby and his Academy put in to nurture his precocious talent.
But in the end Johnson, an FA Youth Cup winner in 2004 who has scored 12 goals in his inaugural season as a first team regular, felt he had little choice but to move on to a new challenge.
“I would have liked to have stayed at Middlesbrough and tried to get them back into the Premier League. I have loved my time there but it was just time to move on,”
“I hope Middlesbrough fans can understand why I’m leaving and I would like to think they also appreciate that the money they have got from my sale has helped to bring in new players.
“Sunderland made an offer, so did Wolves. I could have gone abroad at the end of the season for nothing, so in some ways I have done the club a favour by leaving now.
“Had it gone to a tribunal in the summer they might not have got as much as they have now. In the end I just think everything was taken into account and I was allowed to leave.”
An option of heading to Europe in the summer might have appeared fanciful, but Fiorentina had expressed an interest in taking him to Italy and, under UEFA rules, Boro could have ended up with nothing had he agreed to join the Italians in the summer.
It did not come to that, with Easington-born Johnson delighted to make the switch to Eastlands, where he has already spoken to chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive Garry Cook and director of football Brian Marwood.
“As soon as I knew about Manchester City’s interest it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to go,” said Johnson, who came close to not playing for Boro against Bristol City last Saturday.
“On Friday it was difficult for me because I didn’t know whether I should play or not. I became more and more agitated. The deal came through in the end and now I can’t wait.”
Johnson is expected to be paraded in front of the national media in the next 24 hours as the most expensive deadline day transfer, and he is not about to resign himself to spending any of his fourand- a-half year contract on the bench.
“I’m just taking things day to day and I’m not trying to predict anything.
City have spent a lot of money on a young player and hopefully I will get my chance. It will then be up to me to prove what I can do,”
“It’s a big club, where I will learn and improve playing alongside top players every day. I want to achieve as much as I can in the game, I want to play in Europe, the Champions League and win trophies. At Manchester City I can do that.
“I’m totally prepared for the change. I actually think a move like this would have happened a few years back but I didn’t really get my chance while Stewart Downing was around.”
With a World Cup on the horizon, the move and associated publicity will no doubt propel Johnson into the view of England coach Fabio Capello. But Johnson will not be getting carried away.
“Stranger things have happened. The World Cup comes around every four years so opportunities don’t arrive too often,” said Johnson. “But I’m not seriously thinking about that, all I am thinking about is playing for City.
“It’s strange how I have joined when Robinho has left, it’s amazing to think I’m filling the hole left by the most expensive footballer in British football. I can’t wait.”