0 users online

Why Eddie Johnson swapped Fulham for Cardiff

last updated Monday 25th August 2008, 8:00 AM
Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
EDDIE JOHNSON’S televised football education – which brought him from America to Britain – persuaded him to move to Cardiff City.

And having learned all about the Bluebirds during their run to the FA Cup final, the American international is determined to open his goal-scoring account on these shores.

“I learned a lot about Cardiff City because I followed their FA Cup exploits all the way,” said Johnson, who has moved to Ninian Park from Fulham on a season-long loan.

“That was one of the reasons, when Cardiff City wanted me to join them on loan, I was so keen.

“From what I’ve seen, this is an ambitious club with a great manager in Dave Jones and a great bunch of players.

“This club enjoyed success last season and there is more to come. I want to be a part of that.”

Fulham paid £1.5m for the 6ft 1in hitman in January after he had netted 41 goals for FC Dallas and the Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer, beating off interest from Benfica, Real Socieded, Derby County and Reading.

He has also scored 11 times in 32 appearances for the USA, but has yet to find the net in six outings for Fulham.

“My aim now is to do that for Cardiff City,” said the 24-year-old, who watched City’s 2-2 draw with Norwich on Saturday – a far cry from his beginnings in an inner-city area of Florida.

“I come from a small city, Bunnell in Florida, which isn’t even known for soccer,” said Johnson.

“That turned out to be just one of those hidden, God-given talents that I happened to find within myself.

“Growing up in the inner-city, you’re always active. You’re either playing basketball or racing in the street to see who’s fastest, or playing tackle football. Anything to stay out of trouble.

“I think I made it out simply because I had an opportunity.

“My friends played soccer before I did. One season I decided to play and I asked my mom if I could go to summer camp. She signed me up and I loved it.”

His journey from Fulham to Cardiff was almost as circuitous as his original transatlantic switch – Fulham boss Roy Hodgson agreeing to the move while Johnson was on international duty in Guatemala.

City had been turned down when they inquired about a permanent move, but Hodgson agreed to the loan which is set to begin in earnest in tomorrow’s Carling Cup tie against Milton Keynes Dons at Ninian Park.

And Johnson is determined to prove a point as soon as possible.

“Premiership football is the best in the world – and I still believe I can score goals at that level,” said Johnson.

“But I was in a difficult situation at Fulham because I wasn’t playing matches regularly. Cardiff City have given me the chance to show what I can do and I can’t wait to get started.

“Cardiff are a club I followed a lot last season when they reached the FA Cup final and they have offered me a fantastic opportunity.

“People here in Britain eat, drink and sleep football. It’s an ambition of mine to make an impact – and now I want to do that with Cardiff City.

“I believe I can score goals and do well here. When I signed for Fulham in January I knew it would take time for me to settle in. Now I am ready to push on.”

Johnson first played organised football when he was 10 years old, for Ormond Beach Jaguars.

“My mom was single at the time and trying to raise three kids,” said Johnson.

“My coach, Bob Sawyer, kind of took me in like a second son. He and his wife took me as family from when I was about 10 until I was 15, when I left for Brandenton and the US Soccer residency programme.

“I was a defender, playing sweeper, at first, and in training I would just dribble through everybody. So Bob turned me into a forward. I started playing forward and I started scoring goals. I love scoring goals.”

Johnson represented Florida and then made the national team, playing through the age groups from 15 years old, starting his Major League Soccer career two years later.

“I moved from an environment where I was the star and had to learn there are other big fish out there,” admitted Johnson.

“I had to start from scratch all over again. It took me a while to realise that. I was young.

“When things weren’t going my way, I’d tend to pout, want to get traded, thought it would be better somewhere else. It took me a couple of years to change that mindset.”

As Johnson’s football career blossomed, he was told to watch the World Cup.

“My coach told me to watch it,” said Johnson. “I felt funny because I never even knew anything about a World Cup. As a young boy I followed basketball or American football, not soccer.

“The big factors which caught my attention were the Brazilian players. They were different to those from any other country. They were so skilful.

“My favourite player in that World Cup was Romario. I’d go back to practice and talk about Romario like I’d been watching soccer all my life.

“That’s when I decided, hey, this is something I really want to do.

“My favourite players to watch later were Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho and Christiano Ronaldo. They never worry about who their opponent is. Their biggest challenge is themselves.

“I want to be as good as I can possibly be and it’s all about habits. All the things that got you to where you are, you just keep doing them and doing them and doing them. The goals I score, I work on those runs in practice and do them over and over and over.

“I keep pushing myself. You know, coming from a family where you didn’t have a lot, you push yourself. I would always tell my mom, ‘One day you’re not going to have to work anymore.’

“I told her that because she gave so much to me, and I just wanted to be able to give it back to her. Every day I was playing football it was for her and my family.

“I never wished that one day I could be one of the best players in the world. But the happier you are, that’s when you become better. You don’t pressure yourself. And that’s when people realise, hey, this guy’s legit.”

Source Terry Phillips at Western Mail
Since 1998
"It's been updated!"