GLEN JOHNSON TALKS TO MATT LAWTON: On that 'stolen' toilet seat, his 'lost' passport and falling out

21 March 2009 01:02
At first, Glen Johnson is reluctant to talk about stealing toilet seats, punching walls, losing passports and nights 'on the razz'. He says there's no point in defending himself against the headlines and the allegations. No point in repairing that slightly tarnished reputation.

'Everything happens for a reason,' says the tattoo on his left arm and the Portsmouth right back's insouciance would suggest he accepts everything that has happened to him rather too easily.

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'I just think "whatever!",' he says. 'I can't be bothered to come out and defend myself. People can believe what they want.'

But is that the right attitude when he wants to be a role model to the kids who now attend his soccer school in Dartford? Is it the best policy when his apparent crimes and misdemeanours could influence the decision of a manager?

Is it not madness to simply sit back and take it if, as he claims, he has been so unfairly represented?

Johnson, 24, considers that for a moment. 'Maybe I should have done more to defend myself over the years,' he says. 'I didn't particularly care because the people who mattered to me knew the truth.

'At times, though, it has been comical and even if I'm laid-back I guess it does hurt my family if it isn't true. Maybe I need to get myself a blog.' Or perhaps just give his side of the story in an interview.

So he does. He tackles the lot. From the passport fiasco to the incident in a branch of B&Q.

'The biggest one was the toilet seat,' he says. 'I was with a mate who was doing up his bathroom and he wanted to buy a set where you get everything together. I'd never bought a bathroom like that in my life, and neither had he, so we banged it on the trolley. But we took out the toilet seat and got another one that had a slow-close lid so it wouldn't trap his kid's fingers.

What we didn't know was that it was £2.35 more than the one that should have been in the box. Then we went through the till, my mate paid for it and then this security guy stopped us and said he had been watching us on CCTV and seen us swapping the toilet seats.

Back to school: Glen Johnson's time spent with students and staff at Mary Rose belies his 'bad boy' reputation

'We just burst out laughing, thinking where's Jeremy Beadle. But he said, "No, this is serious, the police are on their way". We just looked at each other as if to say, "Are you winding us up?". But the police turn up. We're crying our eyes out laughing. The police are laughing. I said to the security guy, "Look mate, can we pay the £2.35?". He said, "No, this is a serious offence, blah, blah blah".

'So the police give us two options -either go to court and fight it out or pay the 70 quid on-the-spot fine. We couldn't be bothered going to court so we paid the fine but, doing that, it obviously made us look guilty and the next day it's everywhere that we've been caught shoplifting. But what sort of thief walks through the till and pays for his stuff? If I'm a thief I'm strapping it to my back and bolting it!'

So what about the passport saga?

It was when he was at Chelsea and the story goes pretty much like this: footballer is out clubbing the night before his team are due to fly to Barcelona, even dancing on a table in the early hours with a glass of champagne in one hand and a shot of vodka in the other. Later that morning he arrives at the airport minus his passport, missing the trip and incurring the wrath of Jose Mourinho.

'Complete b******s,' he says. 'The club (Chelsea) had everyone's passports. But somehow it came out that I had lost my passport and had been out on the razz the night before. I hadn't been out on the razz and I didn't even have my passport to lose. But because it's me, mud sticks.

'It turned out to be quite a big story. As it was when I broke my hand and people said that I'd lost my temper and punched a wall because Mourinho wasn't picking me. I did break it (he starts to laugh) but it wasn't a wall.'

It wasn't the most convincing denial either but the battered image does not appear to sit comfortably with the young man behind the headlines.

Club and country: Johnson has developed into what he considers the complete modern full back

There's the soccer school that is celebrating its first major success - nine-year-old Jake Eggleton has just been recruited by West Ham - and there is the Glen Johnson who engages so naturally with the students at the Mary Rose School in Southsea for children with special needs. A wonderful place that is lifted, as part of the Premier League's Creating Chances programme, by a visit from Johnson and two of his Portsmouth team-mates, John Utaka and Hayden Mullins.

Managers now seem to be warming to Johnson too. Fabio Capello has selected him for England's last two games and Harry Redknapp actually regards him as one of the players he has most enjoyed working with.

Redknapp admires the way Johnson has developed into what he considers the complete modern full back, and his performance against Germany last November certainly suggested he had added defensive discipline to his natural attacking ability.

Johnson says he owes an awful lot to Redknapp, not least for rescuing him from what proved a difficult spell at Chelsea.

He was the first signing of Chelsea's Abramovich era: a cool £6million from West Ham in July 2003. But the arrival of Mourinho a year later changed everything. For a start, the Special One signed Paulo Ferreira.

'When Jose came in it was different,' he says. 'I didn't have an issue with Mourinho but obviously there was on his side. You could pick up that vibe and it was in and out of the team.'

Redknapp took him first on loan and then on a permanent deal in August 2007 for a £4m fee that amounts to quite a bargain. And not just because of his international status; not just because he was part of a Portsmouth side that lifted the FA Cup last season. He could have moved to Tottenham for a good deal more in January had Redknapp been given the opportunity to bid for him again.

'Harry's a great manager and it was great working with him,' says Johnson. 'He's been in and out of my career, back to when I was 15 at West Ham, and has probably been my main mentor football-wise.'

Redknapp and his staff convinced him to have more confidence in himself and his considerable talent. One day Joe Jordan gave him a DVD featuring some of his brightest moments. 'He just said, "Watch this and see how good you really are",' recalls Johnson. 'It was nice of him to do that but, to be honest, playing every week has helped me more than anything.

'People might have seen a move from Chelsea to Portsmouth as a backward step but I saw it only as a positive move. I knew I could make it if I got the chance to play and I'm pleased with how things have gone down here.

'When I got the chance to play for England again, I felt more confident. I felt that I should be there. I felt more like I was in the right place.'

Only time will tell if Portsmouth remains the right place. He signed a new contract in January but that was before the club ran into what looks like serious relegation trouble and Paul Hart became the third Portsmouth manager this season.

'That kind of disruption is not good for any team,' he says. 'And it is a worry when you think what relegation can do to a football club. I saw it happen in my final season at West Ham and it ruins people's lives. Staff lose their jobs. Things like that.'

Not that Johnson is someone who likes to dwell too long on the negatives. He prefers to instead approach his work in a more positive frame of mind.

'Every man dies but not every man lives,' he says, quoting the tattoo he has on his back.

A blog might not be such a bad idea.



 

Source: Daily_Mail