Holland v England

England exile helped me mature, claims Johnson

August 11, 2009

England full-back Glen Johnson believes being frozen out by Steve McClaren has made him a stronger player and person.

The Liverpool defender, who arrived from Portsmouth this summer, was the scapegoat in 2005 after a woeful night in Copenhagen when Sven-Goran Eriksson's men lost to Denmark and he paid the price under the Swede's successor McClaren.

After three years in the international wilderness, Johnson was recalled under Fabio Capello after rediscovering consistency at Pompey.

"I wasn't picked much when McClaren was involved but going through things like that has made me the person I am today," said Johnson, who is in the frame to start against Holland on Wednesday in an Amsterdam friendly.

"There's nothing worse than not playing football. Some people have outbursts but I tried to keep my head down and stay focused."

Johnson describes his development as "turning into a man", which he was able to do with the help of Harry Redknapp and Paul Hart at Pompey, with Rafael Benitez now looking to reap the benefits of his maturity.

After failing to live up to his billing at Chelsea he rebuilt his career at Fratton Park but was not helped by a bizarre incident when he was given an on-the-spot fine for stealing bathroom fittings in 2007.

Johnson is happy to clear up the episode, explaining that his best friend wanted to change toilet seats on a bathroom set but did not realise there was a difference in price.

"We told them we did not know there was a difference and offered to pay for the other seat," Johnson said.

"They said no, they would not let us do that because the police were already on their way.

"The police turned up and said we could go to court and fight it out, which we could not be bothered to do, or pay a fine.

"So we paid the fine and it made us look guilty."

It was Johnson's bad luck that the item was a toilet seat - sparking plenty of banter with his Pompey team-mate.

The serious side to the matter was his reputation suffering - but a regular run in the side has seen him edge ahead of Wes Brown as Capello's first-choice right-back. Micah Richards is still in the under-21s and Gary Neville's recent call-up was seen as a huge shock.

"I've aged," Johnson said.

"I'm improving all the time and that has been a key factor. Before I didn't play so it's impossible to put in performances if you don't play."

He offers Benitez and Capello an attacking option going forward and took centre stage against Andorra at the end of last season.

"Fabio has been really positive with bombing on when we can but also picking our moments," he said.

"You can't go gung-ho and start running all over the place, but he is more than keen about getting the full-backs to push on."