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Man City's Johnson almost lost to Feyenoord

Michael Johnson could have been lost to Manchester City.

At the age of just 12, Johnson was sent to live in Holland for four years after being spotted by Feyenoord playing in a Dutch youth tournament.

As it transpired, he stayed just a year. It is difficult to blame him.

"It was just like being in prison over there, horrible," he recalled. "I lived with a Brazilian woman called Norma and her daughter. I don't want to say anything bad about her because she looked after me but she was not the nicest woman.

"It was a little bit exciting for a week but after that time it wore off and it started getting harder.

"I had to get two trams and a bus every morning just to get to school. Then when I got there I didn't know anybody. So it was hard and I guess that's why I came home.

"I was supposed to go over there for four years but there is no way I could have coped with that.

"What did I learn? I learned how to catch a tram and make a bit of food when Norma wasn't there.

"I had been there for three months and then came home because it was the holidays. It was the best week of my life! Just being at home with mum and dad and being with my friends.

"There was no way I could go back permanently."

Johnson returned to Rotterdam on and off for a year but returning home for good and, after a spell at Everton, accepting associate terms with City.

He does not regret his time on the Continent but he would not recommend it.

"The football was good," he conceded. "It was better than it was here. More technical. Even looking at the national teams now you can see how more technical it is in Holland. There was another lad with me in the house called Jonathan de Guzman from Canada and he plays in their first team now. He had no choice but to stay as there was no facilities for him in Canada.

"He was stuck there. But it's worked for him, hasn't it?

"Royston Drenthe was also there. He was in the age group above me and was a very good player and is now at Real Madrid.

"I think, looking back, it helped me with things. I can cope with things better now. But I wouldn't do it again."

About the author

Tribal Football Staff

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