Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Goodbye Roger

It seemed inevitable that during the summer transfer window Roger Johnson would be leaving. As a player who has expressed his desire to continue playing at the top level, along with his will to get into the England team before it’s too late, the Premier League seemed the place for the no nonsense centre half. And that’s exactly where he has ended up.

An ever present in the Blues back-line since he signed from Cardiff in 2009, Roger Johnson struck up a great relationship with fellow players and most importantly, the fans of Birmingham City. His never say die attitude draws parallels with that of the Blues faithful, and it made him a likeable figure amongst the ranks from the word go.

Being part of the invincible Blues team in his first season at the club, Johnson created a magnificent partnership between himself and Scott Dann who also transferred to the club that Summer. The pair received massive praise with both being touted for an England call up, although neither have received one. Yet.

Unsurprisingly, Johnson’s main aspiration in moving from Birmingham to Wolves is to not only play in the top league of English football, but to try and gain a much deserved England call-up. Getting as close as emergency back-up last season is hopefully a taste of what is to come, however at twenty-eight he’s not getting any younger, and this may be his last chance.

The qualities he posseses should be enough to warrant said called up. Although not blessed with too much technical ability, and while his passing leaves much to be desired, his never say die attitude is quick to catch the eye of supporters, and his old fashioned ‘get it out of here’ ways made an instant impact on the Blues fans who fell in love with the rugged defender straight away.

Nicknamed ‘shyness’ on day one at Blues and with the philosophy that “you don't have to take the armband to be a captain”, Johnson has never been afraid to voice his opinion on and off the field. That’s him you can hear all the time telling players where to go and what to do. Shouting and swearing at his team mates because they aren’t putting in 110% is just Roger’s way. But that doesn’t mean to say he’s easily wound up or has low patience all of the time. Not once has he been sent off whilst wearing the royal blue of Birmingham, although he has been slapped by Jussi Jaaskelainen and ‘started on’ – of want of a better phrase – by Hugo Rodellega. Twice. Yet, his off the field bubbly personality is one that should be admired, and one that made his relationship with the Blues fans even stronger.

As an ever present in every single Premier League game in his two seasons at the club, Johnson seemed to relish playing through the pain barrier, as if it were a physical test for himself. No qualms for us though, because as fans that’s something we love to see in a player. Real determinism just to play the game they love playing and we love watching.

Sharing the same passion for the game as the fans in the stands, Johnson has been admired by Blues fans, especially those of a younger age whom look up to him as a player. His lovable nature has given him the status of ‘Blues favourite’ for the past two seasons and it will be a bitter pill to swallow to see him playing for a team we consider as our rivals.

After being linked with moves elsewhere, namely Sunderland who were quoted 14 million for the Surrey-born defender, Wolverhampton is the destination for Roger at half that price. It’s always sad to see a player leave, but it’s even more disappointing to lose one that did so much for the club in his short time here and had such a great player-fan relationship. Stating that it "wasn't an easy decision" and stating how much he enjoyed his time here makes it easier to wish him the best of luck in the future. His footballing ability may have been questioned from time to time, especially with the absence of Scott Dann, but his passion and desire have never been in doubt. Thank you Roger Johnson.

The never say die attitude; the all-important goal against West Ham in the semi-final of the Carling cup and the two years’ worth of courageous performances, as well as the laughs he has given us with his tantrums, arguments and all round great character, means the hole he leaves in the defence will be a hard one to fill.

The term legend is used far too loosely nowadays. Roger Johnson didn’t gain that status in his short-lived time at St. Andrews, however had things turned out differently and had he stayed for two or three more seasons; he may have just squeezed into that bracket.

Hopefully this is not the beginning of a selling spree. The compensation which was yesterday agreed for Alex McLeish should hopefully give a helping hand towards the dwindling financial situation, but I can’t help thinking a few more faces will be leaving in the next week or so.

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