Liverpool Fan: Why I Hate Glen Johnson
Brendan Rodgers has announced that Glen Johnson is injured 'indefinitely', which makes it sound like he's injured FOREVER but was probably just a dramatic way of saying he's going to be out for a long time. Here's an article by lifelong Liverpool fan Alex Woo, written before the injury announcement, on why he hated him.
I know partisanship in football dictates that you’re supposed to back the players at your club to the hilt but, although watching Liverpool over these past few months has been great entertainment, I just can’t hide it anymore: I hate Glen Johnson.
I don’t think he’s a bad player by any means, but I genuinely can’t stand him, and I’d gladly help him pack his bags and drive him to wherever he was moving to – and I can’t even drive! But I would go out of my way to take lessons, pass my test and procure a car, or even a van if he had too much stuff, just to ensure that he never played for the club again.
That may sound like hysterical hyperbole - and I suppose it is - but his terrible performances and even sh**tier attitude have led me to this entrenched viewpoint, and I can’t see anything ever changing it. I try not to get too emotionally invested in football players anymore as they will ultimately break your heart when they pull a Torres and leave in the dead of the night to join one of your rivals (that said, as a Liverpool fan it’s hard for me to do anything other than worship Luis Suarez right now) but watching Johnson just go through the motions really gets me wound up.
The problem with him is that he’s an all-or-nothing kind of player. It’s rare that he’ll put in a string of 7/10 performances; he’s generally either brilliant or he’s a liability. A player with his skillset should be a valuable asset for Brendan Rodgers and, to be fair, he has been at times over the past season-and-a-half, but Johnson’s consistent inconsistency means he’s too much of a wildcard to rely on every week at the highest level. The system and formation Rodgers uses is tailor made for attacking full-backs to thrive, so that Johnson has been Liverpool’s worst player this season (of those who have played regularly) speaks volumes.
Johnson has 18 months left on his contract and a few months ago was offered an extension by the club, albeit with a pay-cut from his current wage - well in excess of £120,000 a week - which Johnson ultimately rejected. I have no problem with his decision; he’s England’s first choice right-back and, although he’ll be nearly 31 when his contract expires next summer, he’s unlikely to be short of potential suitors who will pay him close to what he’s earning now. Fine, go out and prove that you deserve to be earning the big bucks and then if the club don’t agree to pay you what you want then you will easily find another team willing to.
Johnson, however, has decided to do the opposite. His performances, over the past two months in particular, have been absolutely appalling, and all he’s done is prove that the club are right to want to reduce his salary as he’s not justifying what he’s earning now. He’s basically sulking because we won’t give him what he wants, and considering our marked improvement this season and the fact that we’re in a tight race to finish in the top four (and who knows, perhaps even more), that he’s constantly letting the rest of the side down is unforgivable, and hopefully his teammates are letting him know that, too.
Rodgers has proved throughout his tenure that reputation means nothing and he picks players based on merit, so Johnson is extremely fortunate that the inability of the other full backs to collectively stay fit has meant that Liverpool have had to persist with him, when he could well have been facing a lengthy spell on the bench. Many of his poor performances have come in comfortable wins so they’ve been masked over somewhat, but as one of senior members of the squad – and the third highest paid players at the club – he should be leading by example, but instead he’s been upstaged by a youngster who was a complete afterthought for most fans.
After breaking in to the side a few seasons ago when Kenny Dalglish was caretaker boss, Jon Flanagan’s appeared to have stagnated at the club, but he was given a chance in the Merseyside derby - as reward for his attitude and performance in training according to Rodgers - and put in a spirited performance. He was then able to build on that in the weeks leading up to Christmas, even capping it off with a brilliant finish in Liverpool’s 5-0 drubbing of Spurs at White Hart Lane, before he picked up an injury which has kept him out over the festive season when he would have definitely remained in the side.
Flanagan is more of an orthodox full-back; a solid defender who gets forward when he can but it’s not really his strong suit. In terms of natural talent he’s not in Johnson’s league, but his enthusiasm and endeavour are infectious, plus his performances have outshone Johnson’s – and that’s whilst Flanagan has played out of position. Martin Kelly, another talented but offensively limited academy product, has struggled for fitness since a serious knee injury last season, but I’d much rather see any of those two in the side than Johnson as at the very least they would put the effort in that is a prerequisite for any professional footballer.
Rodgers, somewhat understandably, does not want to lose Johnson. Liverpool have struggled for years due to a lack of squad depth and even this season, over the festive period, were down to 17 senior players and had to bring in some of the young players to make up the match day squads. Also, if the club are in Europe next season then two players for every position is a must. But FSG, rightly or wrongly, have a clear setup in place and they’re not in the business of keeping underachieving high-earners at the club, as the departures of Joe Cole, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll this summer proved – hey, maybe West Ham want another England international – and one of their own – back?
Liverpool’s interest in Marc Montoya, Barcelona’s young right-back whose contract expires this summer, is unlikely to materialise in to a permanent move as the Spaniard appears to be using the interest from the club to give himself more leverage in contract negotiations – much like Diego Costa did in the summer - but the club are right to be looking at alternatives. Just like with Pepe Reina, who batted his eyelashes at Barcelona every summer, the club need to protect themselves first and foremost and then deal with Johnson later, but they’re unlikely to let him leave on a bosman in 2015.
There is nothing more infuriating than a player with obvious talent who constantly underachieves and Johnson definitely falls in to this category. He’s 29, supposedly the age when players are in their prime, yet he has been the same infuriating player throughout his career. Hopefully time is called on Liverpool career sooner rather than later and he’ll be someone else’s expensive problem.
Follow Alex on Twitter, @woolfc