Michael Johnson eyes cup run for Blues

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January 1, 2015 by bluenosebible

By Oliver Osborn

 

Former Blues defender Michael Johnson believes Birmingham City could go far in the FA Cup this season.

Birmingham-Citys-Gary-Rowett-right-celebrates-with-Paul-RobinsonWith Blues being drawn against non-league Blyth Spartans in the third round, Johnson feels Gary Rowett’s side could reach the latter stages by taking their league form into the cup.

“A good run in the cup can be a big help when it comes to your league form.

“If you’re playing and winning games it can be a massive boost to your confidence and really help with match fitness.

“Knowing you can win games of football because of the progress you’ve made in the cup can’t be a hindrance because the FA Cup makes players believe they can beat anybody on their day.”

Despite playing at St. Andrews for eight seasons, the Johnno never made it past the fourth round of the famous competition with Birmingham.

The club’s success during the defender spell at Blues came in the League Cup where they were semi-finalists in the 1995/96 season and were defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2000/01 final, both as a second tier side.

The former Jamaican international did reach the Quarter-Final stage with Notts County in 1991 as the Magpies were beaten by eventually winners Tottenham Hotspur.

“We were gutted because we were just two steps away from Wembley, because they didn’t play the semi-finals there at that point.

“It’s a fantastic cup competition and some of the great players have lifted that trophy.

“I always watch it with pride knowing I’ve been a part of it before and feel privileged to have played in such a tournament.”

carling-cup-trevor-francis-crys-with-andrew-johnson-at-the-end-when-he-missed-the-last-penalty-2001-648512615“During my career I experienced many great cup runs, particularly getting to the Worthington Cup Final in 2001 with Blues against Liverpool, and it gives you a more positive mentality going into upcoming matches.”

As a youngster, Johnson always dreamed of playing in the illustrious competition and playing at the famous Old Wembley.

The 41-year-old did get the chance to fulfil his aspiration of winning a Wembley Final after Derby County won promotion to the Premiership via the play-offs in 2007.

“One memory that sticks out is watching the players walk up those Wembley steps before lifting that famous trophy and then one day be able to do it myself.”

“I enjoyed my career and one of the things that motivated me to play to the level I did was those clips of famous captains lifting trophies at Wembley, and the FA Cup was one of them.”

Over more recent years, however, the top clubs have lowered the FA Cup in their list of priorities, with the Champions League and the Premiership becoming the top targets.

It has led to clubs rotating their teams regularly, even in the latter stages, and Johnson doesn’t believe it is the right way to treat football’s oldest knockout tournament.

“Unfortunately some clubs don’t take the competition seriously anymore and it is a real shame.

“The fans love it and have a great time with the days out watching their team play, but some managers don’t give it the respect it deserves.

“It is a tournament is fantastic tradition and I wish it was still treated the way it was when I was playing.”

Over the last few years, Johnson has been a regular at St. Andrews co-commenting on matches for the club’s website.

This has meant the club academy coach has experienced at first hand the turn around since Gary Rowett took charge in late October and feels the side can start to look up the table rather than look over their shoulders towards the relegation zone.

Clayton-Donaldson-celebrates-his-goal-with-David-Cotterill“Since Rowett has come in he has completely revamped the side. Everything about the team at the moment is spot on and the results are starting to show.

“He’s made a great start and if things continue to go well they could start pushing towards the top half of the table.

“Before he came in some of the performances were the worst I’ve seen since I first joined Birmingham City back in 1995.

“Now, almost two months later, there is a huge contrast in terms of performance and the results.

“Everyone around the club has a feel good factor and it’s really starting to show on the pitch.”

As someone who has been on the winning and losing sides of giant killings in the cup, the former defender knows playing against part-timers Blyth won’t be an easy task for Birmingham.

But if they can overcome the seventh tier side and progress further in the competition then Johnson, who now works with the club’s academy, wouldn’t be surprised to see the side become this year’s surprise package.

“One thing about the FA Cup is that league positions are not important, it’s just about who is the better team on the day.

“Hopefully with Blues, a good cup run would be massive in terms of confidence and team morale heading into the second half of the season.

“If we can go through a few rounds and perform on the day then who knows? Maybe Gary Rowett could be leading his side out at Wembley!”

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