|"Oh, I love it when I get the ball here, Gaffer! |
Guess what I'm gonna do with it now?"
(There is a knock at the office door)
Martin O'Neill: Come in! Ah, hello there Johnson. Good to see you, son. Have a seat.
(Johnson is clearly distressed, and tugs at the label on his t-shirt as he quickly sits down)
Adam Johnson: (sniffing) All I w... w... want to do is cut in from the wing and have a shot, Mr O'Neill. A low shot, hit hard into the bottom corner of the net. I'm really good at it but Mr Mancini keeps on not letting me play.
MON: I understand, son. To be fair I do remember watching you on my tellybox a couple of years back. Saw you score a couple of great goals where, if memory serves, you cut...
AJ: (interrupting and suddenly cheering up) Yeah, cut inside and scored with a low shot! GOAL! That's my favourite and my bestest thing to do. I really, really love doing that.
MON: Great, well we could do with a bit of your incisive wing play here at Sunderland, especially during the first half of games. Generally we like to have the lad Cattermole sent off around the 55-minute mark, so it would be lovely if we could be going into the ten-man phase of our games with the cushion of a lead from time to time.
AJ: (doing puppy dog eyes) Well... I could help you with that.
MON: Good, well, I must say I'm pretty tempted. What would you say are your main strengths?
AJ: (defiantly) I really, really love to cut inside and....
MON: Yes, cut inside and have a low shot, I think you mentioned that. But what else?
AJ: Well - and this is the clever bit - sometimes I shoot to the near post, but then on other occasions I shoot to the far post. Good, eh?
MON: Well, err, yes. That's lovely. But what else do you do to bring some variety into your game?
AJ: What do you mean?
MON: Well, you can't always do the same trick of cutting inside with a feint and then shooting low. How else do you like to mix things up?
AJ: (looks blank for ages)
MON: Come now, Johnson, surely you don't do the same thing every time? What about getting to the byline and standing up a cross for one of our strikers? We've got the lad Fletcher from Wolves now. He's pretty good with his head.
AJ: (sulkily) I don't really like doing that.
MON: Or maybe you could play a simple pass to a teammate before you've cut inside?
AJ: What? Shut up, I hate that! HATE IT!
MON: Well, ok, how about if, sometimes, once you've cut inside, you hit your shot high into a top corner? That would at least be a bit different.
AJ: No! I don't want to do that! I told you, I just want to cut inside and shoot low.
MON: To be honest then, Johnson, I'm not sure we have a deal. I might not be the most tactically adventurous of managers but I can't have a guy in my team who only does one thing.
AJ: What if I say I'll play for just 50k pocket money per week? That's loads less than the pocket money Mr Mancini gave me.
MON: Only 50k a week? Well, Johnson! Why didn't you say so before?! I assumed we'd be talking big money, but 50k a week is an absolute snip for your services. I used to pay Reo-Coker that much just to sit on the bench at Villa. And that was if he was lucky. Whereas with you I'll have some pace down the flank and a player that can...
Both in unison: ...cut inside and shoot!
(There is laughter all round. For a disturbingly long period of time. Until both men forget what they were laughing at and stare coldly at their shoes.)
Adam Johnson signed for Sunderland, where he would often cut inside and shot low, sometimes to the near post and sometimes to the far. You literally never knew which side he would put it. He was that good. However, Martin O'Neill eventually became tired of the player's insistence on cutting inside to shoot, not to mention his refusal to pass the ball to a teammate, and instead preferred to leave Johnson on the substitutes bench. But since he was only on 50k a week that wasn't a big problem really.