Michael Johnson

Published on March 21st, 2012

Michael Owen Johnson (born 4 July 1973) is a former footballer of Jamaican parentage. He made more than 550 appearances in the Football League and Premier League, including more than 250 games for Birmingham City and more than 100 each for Notts County, the club where he began his professional career, and for Derby County. Although born in Nottingham, England, he was a full Jamaican international and played 12 times for the Jamaican national team. He retired as a player at the end of the 2008/09 season, and took up the post of youth team manager with Notts County.

Playing career

Johnson began his career at Notts County, after signing apprentice forms the year before, making his league début in the 1991/92 season at the age of 18. On his debut he faced his hero Ian Wright’s Arsenal side at Highbury,  Notts County lost 2-0

In the 1994/95 season Johnson left County, joining Birmingham City, who had just been promoted to the First Division, for £230,000.

Birmingham City

In the 1997/98 season Johnson scored his first career league goal, in a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on 22 February 1998. Johnson finished the season with 3 goals in 38 league appearances as Birmingham finished 7th, missing out on the playoffs. Johnson scored 5 goals in 45 league appearances in the 1998/99 season as Birmingham finished 4th, qualifying for the play-offs.

Birmingham reached the final of the League Cup in 2001, losing 5-4 to Liverpool on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.

The 2001/02 season saw Birmingham finally promoted to the Premier League. Johnson scored one goal in 32 appearances as Birmingham finished 5th, beating Norwich on penalties in the final after a 1-1 draw. The 2002/03 season saw Birmingham finish safely mid-table in their first season back in the top division. During his lengthy stay at Birmingham Michael had become a Birmingham City hero with the fans with his committed and honest playing style.

Derby County

Johnson joined Derby on a free transfer in August 2003 after eight seasons with Birmingham. Johnson quickly established himself in the heart of the Derby defence, playing 39 games and scoring once.

The 2005/06 season saw Johnson named as captain, a role he held until 2006 when he was named club captain.

The 2007/08 season saw Johnson, now 34 years old, relegated to 5th choice centre half. Consequently, in September 2007, Johnson joined Sheffield Wednesday on an emergency one month loan deal.

On 26 December 2007, Johnson returned to the Derby team to face Liverpool, coming on as a first half substitute. His return was greeted by Derby fans with cheers and chants of There’s only one Michael Johnson. Johnson made 2 further league appearances and came on as a substitute in the cup against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, where he was greeted by a hero’s welcome from the Wednesday fans. He then left to re-join the team where he started his career, Notts County, on loan for the remainder of the season.

Return to Notts County

On 29 February 2008 Johnson returned to Notts County on loan for the remainder of the 2007/08 season, playing 12 times and scoring once. The goal, against Rochdale on 22 March 2008, was his first league goal in a Notts County shirt, and came some sixteen years after he had made his début for the club. He played the final league game of his career in a 3-0 defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge on 25 April 2009, announcing his retirement from professional football at the end of his contract in May 2009.

Johnson was a fans’ favourite at all his clubs, most notably Birmingham, where he picked up the nickname “Magic” (in reference to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the American basketball player), for his often immense performances. During his career he was known as a quick, clever centre-half. Johnson was known for his incredible leap, which scored him a number of goals for Birmingham.

Managerial career

When Notts County sacked manager Ian McParland, Johnson took over briefly as caretaker manager alongside Dave Kevan. During their brief spell at County, they drew against Rotherham United and beat Crewe Alexandra 2-0. When Notts County brought in Hans Backe as manager, Johnson returned to his role as the Youth team Manager.

Jamaican career

He was called to the Reggae Boyz squad during Rene Simoes’ time. Johnson lost his place in the squad when Clovis de Oliveria took over from as the Reggae Boyz technical director. However with the appointment of Jamaican technical director Carl Brown, he played in the a vital role in the World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign.