Johnson hails influence of 'winner' Tevez
Published 16/04/2010 | 05:00
WHEN he was at Manchester United, Carlos Tevez used to delight in teaching Wayne Rooney a choice array of Spanish swear words; at Eastlands he has taught Adam Johnson far, far more.
The boy from the tower blocks of Buenos Aires may have been, according to Rio Ferdinand, one of the least active trainers at Old Trafford, but he is someone who imparts knowledge just from his presence.
"People like me will learn something from him every day in training," said Johnson, who began the season with Middlesbrough in the Championship and, after being identified by Fabio Capello as a dark horse for South Africa, may end up at a World Cup finals. "When you do what he does on the pitch, you can rest all week.
"What he has done this season is to prove everybody wrong. He has had his critics, but when it comes down to it, football is about winning and Carlos is a winner. Carlos would swap all of his goals this season to score the winner against United on Saturday."
If it does finish up with Tevez dragging out a shin-pad with his daughter's name written on it, as he did when finding the net against Birmingham last weekend, it will be a far more significant image than the "Welcome to Manchester" poster the club unveiled when he exchanged Old Trafford for Eastlands last summer.
"Probably, looking at his situation now, any team would regret selling a player of his quality," said Johnson -- although United did not sell Tevez, they were not prepared to offer him a new, inflated contract for a fee of £25m. "He has become a stronger player and tried harder to prove a point. He has definitely done that."
The points that Johnson has proved this season are many. He grew up in Easington, the pit village where 'Billy Elliott' was filmed. A campaign that began with him in a relegated Boro side facing a long slog through the Championship and which might now finish at a World Cup finals has something of that quality.
He admits that with one year on his contract at the Riverside, he thought he would move somewhere. "And after three or four months in the Championship, I did long to start playing Premier League football again."
At the age of 19, he had been linked with a move to Real Madrid during Juande Ramos' brief, unsuccessful spell at the Bernabeu. You wonder how Johnson's practical jokes would have gone down among the galacticos, but it says something for his own self-confidence that it was something he did not shy away from. (© Daily Telegraphy, London)