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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 14:12 GMT
World Cup scouting - Andrew Johnson
Sven-Goran ErikssonAndy JohnsonThe fansCrystal Palace boss Iain DowieWill Andy Johnson be going to Germany?

By Jonathan Stevenson
BBC Sport at Selhurst Park

On 8 May, head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will announce the group of 23 players that he believes can win the World Cup for England.

Until that time, speculation is sure to continue over the exact make-up of the squad as the build-up to the finals in Germany intensifies.

In the first of a series of scouting reports, BBC Sport runs the rule over Crystal Palace striker Andrew Johnson as he looks to force his way back into Eriksson's plans.

ENGLAND HISTORY

Johnson burst on to the Premiership scene last season, scoring a hugely impressive 22 goals despite Palace's relegation back to the Championship.

ANDREW JOHNSON FACTFILE
Johnson made his first England start against the USA last May
Born: 10 Feb 1981, Bedford
Clubs: Birmingham, C Palace
Career games: 255
Career goals: 95
England caps: Two

The former Birmingham striker terrorised defences with his lightning pace and deadly finishing and earned his first England call-up last February for the friendly against Holland.

Unfortunately for Johnson, his half-hour debut appearance was spent largely on the right-wing and he failed to make much of an impact.

He did earn another chance, however, making his first start in the 2-1 win over the United States in May and he produced a lively performance in the process.

Johnson has been selected for the England squad this season but has not featured regularly, largely because of injuries which have stunted his campaign at Selhurst Park.

To Eriksson's credit, he made it clear at the end of last term that playing in a lower division would not affect Johnson's World Cup hopes.

ANDY JOHNSON - THE FORM GUIDE

One thing is abundantly clear - to have a chance of going to Germany and staying in Eriksson's thoughts, Johnson knew at the start of the season he would have to score a hatful of goals in The Championship.

This he has not done. Largely through no fault of his own - after all, the 25-year-old has been injured for nearly a third of the season and Palace have struggled at times to live up to their pre-season billing as one of the promotion favourites.

JOHNSON'S GOAL RECORD
2005/06: 14 in 28 games
2004/05: 22 in 40 games
2003/04: 32 in 49 games
2002/03: 14 in 34 games

Against Ipswich on Saturday, Johnson looked a touch short of the explosive finisher of last term.

His fitness is not a problem and his confidence was high as he continually went looking for the ball, but therein lies the problem.

Johnson is at his best when he hangs on to the last defender and races on to a ball over the top - as he did brilliantly to win the free-kick that led to Aki Riihilahti's opener.

Perhaps in his desperation to see Palace back in the Premiership, the club's best player has taken on more responsibility.

He kept dropping deep to try to win the ball and give his team-mates more options and, as a result, appeared more likely to create a goal than score one.

His ability is not in question and his work-rate and commitment were commendable as he hassled and harried and chased down the Ipswich defenders all afternoon.

But Johnson's place in the squad would be as a goalscorer - and a 20-yard drive that flew inches wide is not enough to further his claims for a berth.

WHAT THE SUPPORTERS THINK

AJ is about as form-irrelevant as it gets. His game is based on graft. You get exactly the same thing from AJ week in, week out - 100% effort and commitment. He works the defence into the ground and scares them with his pace. He will always score goals with his attributes as his pace and work ethic will always produce chances and indeed penalties.
John_Steeplebeem, via 606 messageboards.

Andy wasn't at his best against Ipswich but I still think it would be a bit of a risk if Sven took him to Germany. He has scored quite a few this season but I guess he needed to get 30 or so to keep himself in the spotlight - regardless of how good he is. How many people have gone to a World Cup with his amount of goals in the second division?
Dave, Crystal Palace fan.

He's an excellent finisher and if Owen doesn't make it he could quite easily step into the breach and he is physical enough to do some damage if Rooney is injured. He may not have the outright quality of other contenders but he does have a peerless record of pure goalscoring.
HomeParkHomer, via 606 messageboards.

Surely you can't genuinely believe that he has a chance? He hasn't done enough for us this season to be considered and there are more consistent players doing it in the Prem who will be ahead of him. Barring injuries to Defoe, Bent, Beattie and Vassell, he ain't going to Germany.
The Ginger Zidane, via 606 messageboards.

He's better than a Championship striker, he deserves to play in the Premiership - but how can he be in the squad ahead of someone like Darren Bent, who has had a great season playing against the best defenders in the country? It just wouldn't be fair.
Geoff, Crystal Palace supporter.

WHAT THE GAFFER THINKS

Palace manager Iain Dowie was the first man to press forward Johnson's claims for a place in the England squad and he has continually pushed for his star striker's inclusion on the plane to Germany.

Despite Johnson's omission from the squad to face Uruguay at the start of March, Dowie refused to accept his chances were over.

"Andy was disappointed to be left out of the squad and I know that he is frustrated," said Dowie at the time.

"I don't think his chance has gone. If he can keep scoring between now and the end of the season, I will make sure Sven is aware of him.

"I believe Andrew is one of the top four of five strikers in the country and he is good enough to go to the World Cup."

THE VERDICT

When Eriksson announces his final squad on 15 May, Andy Johnson is unlikely to see his name alongside the likes of David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.

JOHNSON'S COMPETITION
Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Peter Crouch, Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe, Darius Vassell, James Beattie

His exclusion from the Uruguay game was a telling blow to his World Cup hopes and there appear to be too many strikers in the way for Johnson to force his way through now.

Sadly for the player and the club he has been so loyal to, his decision to stay with Crystal Palace seems certain to cost him a place in the 23-man squad.

Johnson's goalscoring prowess and tireless endeavour should earn him the chance in future to stake a regular place in the national squad.

But timing in football is everything - and this World Cup has not arrived at the right moment for the Eagles' hitman.




SEE ALSO
Crystal Palace 2-2 Ipswich
18 Mar 06 |  Championship


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