The Seventeen Million Pound Question

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I do not know whether it is my complex personality, but I have always tried to stick up for the underdogs throughout my life. I guess that I have been an underdog too on some occasions but when everyone is picking on a helpless victim, I will usually try to offer some support. This act will often cause me to become the new target of the abuse, but I can cope. After all, you have to remember that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” and all of those other corny sayings that you were told when a kid?

I am not suggesting that Liverpool Football Club circa 2009-2010 and Glen Johnson can be compared to the terrified eleven-year old being ferociously bullied by a trio of deranged year 10 thugs for the sake of his packed lunch, the carefully counted-out bus fare, and his dignity. However, the criticism of this team and this particular player has been hysterical. I know that the club and this player can fight their own battles but I wanted to be a bit more reflective during this particular international break.

It has become a bit of a game in itself to write off this season at Anfield. I appreciate that the Spurs result was pretty disappointing, the Villa game was not much better, whilst the Stoke win was dismissed as pretty routine. The Bolton tussle seemed to be pointlessly freakish when it should have been a win on paper.

While all of those results have been chalked up on the board, Real Madrid and Manchester City have been splashing their chequebook around the world like a psychotic hedge fund manager. In contrast, the reds have spent £17 million on what some people have derided as an ex Portsmouth defender who had not done much at Chelsea during his stay in west London. Coupled with the departure of the popular Xabi Alonso, and an indifferent August in terms of results, the public mood seems to be pretty black in L4.

The worst aspect of the criticism against Glen Johnson is how it is seems to be delivered by hands for most of August. Mutterings that mostly focused on the £17 million price tag above his head have gently grown to a level that a free morning poster screamed through the morning gloom that Johnson was the weak link in the England team.

I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion but it was a shock in the September early morning gloom of deepest dull Warwickshire, to see a glossy picture of a perplexed Glen Johnson coupled with a rant about whether this player is of sufficient quality for the national team.

I have sat through numerous World Cup qualifying campaigns and miserable penalty shootouts. I also know how we like to blame someone or something for our sad exit, so I am starting to wonder whether Johnson is already set up as the fall guy if (or when) England crash out in a quarter final or semi final shootout. It seems that this blame is based on the fact that Johnson likes to be an attacking defender in a country that still worships a solid back four.

I love to see attacking defenders in a team, with a fluidity of formation but a general understanding about everyone’s specific duties. The accusation seems to be that Johnson does not understand that his main duty is to defend, which seems to be a total insult to a considerably seasoned professional. It is obvious that he understands that role, and as the season develops, it is probable that he will gain an extra yard of pace to patrol the right wing in a similar way to Ashley Cole on the left wing.

Should I give up on Glen Johnson? Of course not and I remain convinced that Glen Johnson will bring something to the team that his predecessors in the position often failed to do. I would also suggest that it is too early to dismiss Liverpool Football Club from anything that is meaningful during the coming season that is less than five weeks old.

I also like to think that there is more quality in the side than just Gerrard and Torres, which has been suggested in many newspapers. You could call this hopelessly optimistic talk, but I refuse to be hysterical about this team when there is way too much league football to be played before the clock have turned to GMT, or the fat lady has sung on the last train out of Liverpool Lime Street.

With England having qualified for the 2010 World Cup, and this personal criticism will probably end if the national team does well in South Africa. We will look back at these early autumn days and wonder why some of us had it in for Glen Johnson, the England team and Liverpool Football Club.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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