HIGHLY-SOUGHT after Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson has outlined a desire to work his way to the top after being named the North- East Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year.

His blistering start to life in the Championship has alerted a number of clubs, particularly given how his contract at the Riverside Stadium is due to expire next summer.

Sunderland, Everton and Chelsea are among those known to be considering a January move for the player who has risen to prominence after scoring nine goals in his first season as a regular in the Middlesbrough team.

Steve Bruce and David Moyes are among a growing list of Premier League managers assessing his progress on Teesside, with Middlesbrough expecting a few calls when the new year transfer window opens for a month.

But top-flight bosses are not the only ones to have been attracted by Johnson’s wing play this season, with the North-East’s football journalists also impressed.

Johnson will be crowned the North-East Football Writers’ Association’s (NEFWA) Young Player of the Year at a dinner at Durham’s Ramside Hall on November 29, when former Sunderland defender Danny Collins will be handed the main award.

Given the way Johnson has started this season, there is every chance he will be in contention again next year, which is exactly what Johnson is looking to do, and more, including establishing himself on the top stage.

“I want to be recognised for what I do by receiving these sort of things, so it is a big honour for me to be noted in this way,” said Johnson. “I want to achieve things in football. I want to achieve as much as I can while I’m playing.

“I want to follow playing for the Under-21s by playing for the senior England team. I want to play at the highest level and be pushing to win things.

“Winning this type of award is exactly what I want during my career and hopefully it will be the first of many. I’m still young but I want to be making sure that these types of award continue.”

Johnson’s individual honour is a further mark of the success of Middlesbrough’s reputable academy system, which has churned out a number of players in recent years.

Since Stewart Downing, whose role on the left of midfield is now being filled by Johnson, was the first to make the grade who won the NEFWA Player of the Year award in 2005, David Wheater was recognised last year.

Academy director Dave Parnaby and head of recruitment (youth) Ron Bone have also been recognised for their achievement by being handed the special John Fotheringham Services to North-East football award in the past.

“I’m delighted to win it. To know that David Wheater won it last year and to know we have had four winners of the Football Writers Awards in the last four years is fantastic.

It’s a credit to Dave Parnaby and Ron Bone for what they have done with the Academy,” said Johnson.

“There have been an unbelievable number of players who have come through the Middlesbrough Academy. A lot of the Academy’s work goes unnoticed, so it is nice that the Academy gets its rewards when it can, which is what my award does.

“Over the last few years Middlesbrough have produced players worth a lot of money. Just look at Stewart Downing going to Aston Villa in the summer.”

Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan has been boosted by the fitness levels of Chris Riggott and Andrew Taylor who both featured prominently in a reserve match.

Riggott emerged through his first 90 minutes since February while Taylor scored a sweet long-range strike before heading off just after the hour. Boro’s reserves won the match with Lincoln 3-0.

■ Comedian Kevin Connelly will be guest speaker at the NEFWA dinner which will recognise the contribution of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, on Sunday, November 29. Tickets cost £45 each. For more details contact Sam Lee (01429) 265859 or 07984 677357.