Andrew Johnson

Information: This is an article I wrote for The Eagles Beak and has been published here 1 month it was published on their website. This version may differ slightly from their version. 

Contrary to popular belief, football wasn’t invented in 1992 when the Premier League spewed forth out of the Football Associations orifice office.

For those of you not familiar with how the formation of the Premier League came about, here is a snipped on the subject from Wikipedia:

“In 1990 the managing director of London Weekend Television (LWT), Greg Dyke, met with the representatives of the “big five” football clubs in England in 1990. The meeting was to pave the way for a break away from The Football League. Dyke believed that it would be more lucrative for LWT if only the larger clubs in the country were featured on national television and wanted to establish whether the clubs would be interested in a larger share of television rights money. The five clubs decided it was a good idea and decided to press ahead with it; however, the league would have no credibility without the backing of The Football Association and so David Dein of Arsenal held talks to see whether the FA were receptive to the idea. The FA did not enjoy an amicable relationship with the Football League at the time and considered it as a way to weaken the Football League’s position.

In 1992, the First Division clubs resigned from the Football League en masse and on 27 May 1992 the FA Premier League was formed as a limited company working out of an office at the Football Association’s then headquarters in Lancaster Gate. This meant a break-up of the 104-year-old Football League that had operated until then with four divisions; the Premier League would operate with a single division and the Football League with three. There was no change in competition format; the same number of teams competed in the top flight, and promotion and relegation between the Premier League and the new First Division remained the same as the old First and Second Divisions with three teams relegated from the league and three promoted.

The league held its first season in 1992–93 and was originally composed of 22 clubs. The first ever Premier League goal was scored by Brian Deane of Sheffield United in a 2–1 win against Manchester United. The 22 inaugural members of the new Premier League were Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wimbledon.”

Interestingly, of the 22 inaugural members only 10 are in the Premier League today. Out of those ten, four of us has had very interesting journeys between 1992 and 2016!

The reason why I felt a little refresher was in order is because when the Premier League was formed it also created the environment for a new breed of footballer, the egocentric star!

Of course, prior to 1992 we had stars and superstars of the game. We had players like George Best, Rodney Marsh, Kevin Keegan and the like but they were still team players rather than players who sole purpose was to better their image. In fact they didn’t earn enough from football to live off after they retired and most of the players had to take up ‘normal’ jobs after playing at a top level even if they were highly capped internationals.

But with the Premier League came more money and with more money came more lucrative contracts, image rights, goal bonuses and other enhancements. Players who played during the time of the transformation from Division One to the Premier League, such as Mark Bright and Ian Wright, pretty much missed out on the gravy train that grew into the monster it became at the turn of the century.

Can you imagine what a player with Wright’s talent, personality and character would make in today’s game? Back in the mid-90s while people were finding new markets and new ways to make money, particularly post Bosman, a lot of players missed out.

To add to that players today get paid for image rights, name rights and so on for DVDs and computer games such as FIFA and Football Manager. You can’t just produce a game or app with a real team and their player’s names. You have to pay for a licence from the Premier League or any other league from around the world. It’s all about the money, honey!

There have been many famous cases but one that sticks in my mind the most is the 2005 version of Football Manager. In the game German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn had to be removed and was replaced with the name Jens Mustermann because Kahn does not allow his image or name to be used in certain computer games.

So, what is my point? What the hell am I rabbiting on about? Well, if you think about it, we pander to the flair player too much these days. Goals equals presence, equals more TV time, equals a bigger contract, equals more mentions on social media, equals higher profile and so on.

The reason a club or manager will let the striker take penalties isn’t always based on the fact they are the best person for the job. It might be in their contract, it might be an image thing or just to keep him happy.

You might say it is player power but it could be considered as good marketing. The recent discussion about if Wayne Rooney should be dropped by Manchester United brought up an interesting point. Despite all the starts at United’s disposal it is said Rooney is the most high profile in foreign markets and that was a big reason for him not being dropped.

Of course this is the wrong approach. Stars should not be pandered to or be picked because he increases our profile abroad. Do you remember when Venables signed the two Chinese players during his second spell as manager? Over night we became the most supported team in the world because of the Chinese market.

Football today is a sell out and the Football Association are the culprits!

Back before football was reinvented it was very common that full backs took free kicks and penalties. Liverpool had Phil Neal, Ipswich had John Walk (held the record for most scored penalties in the UEFA Cup until it, Nottingham Forest had Stuart Pearce and we had Paul ‘Doris’ Hinselwood. Hell, even Real Madrid had Roberto Carlos.

Does a club really care who takes the penalties? Surely getting a goal is all that matters? You’d certainly hope but I am not so sure!

Let’s take a look at Andrew Johnson as an example. In the 2004-2005 season Johnson scored 21 Premier League goals, 11 of them were penalties! Eleven!

Here’s the top scorers table for the season 2004/05.

Premier League top scorers 2004-05

That season there was a lot made of Johnson’s scoring prowess, he was second in the top scorers table to Thierry Henry, who scored 25 goals, no penalties! In fact the second highest amount of penalties scored that season was four!

People asked, how can a player score 21 goals and be in a relegated side? Fair question but eleven of the goals were not from open play. In face the whole team only managed 41 Premier League goals that season, which is pitiful!

Don’t get me wrong, taking and scoring penalties is a skill but I feel they should have their own scoring table.

So, I think a club does care who takes the penalties. As in my example, had Andrew Johnson not taken the penalties that season then we’d have lost out on a lot of publicity that season. Johnson might not have got into the England squad and we might not have got almost £9m for his services when Everton came calling.

Everton seem to like buying players from us who are over hyped. #JustSaying.

Imagine if Aki Riihilahti took the penalties that season instead of Johnson, he’d have ended the season with 15 goals, which is five more than Johnson would have had. That isn’t really as headline grabbing though is it? The Finnish international defensive midfielder ending the season as the second highest Premier League scorer.

All this nonsense all boils down to our current situation where Yohan Cabaye missed a penalty against Bournemouth. Cabaye also missed his previous penalty, which was last season away to Newcastle. Then we have Christian Benteke who missed one against West Ham. It isn’t really a crisis but at the same time it isn’t that good either.

So to clear the matter up Pardew announced in his pre-match press conference for the game away at Leicester that Benteke would still be on penalty duty. I don’t agree with his decision but I can understand it.

I have a lot more sympathy with the idea that players who are better at shooting should take free kicks. Yeah, that is and should be their forte! However, a penalty isn’t about finesse or curling the ball, it is about banging the ball in the back of the net from 8 yards!

For my money it should be one of the following players; Delaney, Ward, Souare (when he returns), McArthur or, at a push, Ledley. A player who you know isn’t going to mess around with a delicate chip, try to dummy the keeper or check his run up before kicking the ball.

I just want someone who will put the ball on the spot, walk back ten steps, turn, run up to the ball and kick the thing as hard as he can. At least we might get a rebound!

Back in the ‘glory days’ Andy Gray used to take our penalties. Most of the time he’d score, sometimes he’d miss and on occasion the goalkeeper would save it. One such occasion verses Swindon their goalkeeper, Frazier Digby, got a hand to one of Andy’s penalties and fractured three fingers!

I like Andrew Johnson, he was a great player for us and he was good at taking penalties. However, if you really believe that Johnson was a 21 goal a season Premier League striker, only just 4 goals off Henry then I have a rare £5 note that was printed upside down you might be interested in buying…

No? Okay, maybe you’d be interested in buying an England international striker we have called Frazier Campbell? (He has got 1 cap for the senior squad!)

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