City reception thrills Johnno

Local lad delighted to be back in action

Johnson: Long-awaited return

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Michael Johnson is raring to go for Manchester City after a rousing welcome back to first-team action.

The 21-year-old midfielder made his first appearance in 12 months on Monday as he came off the bench late on in City's 3-1 win over West Ham.

The England Under-21 international has struggled to shake off an abdominal problem but the Blues faithful voiced their delight at seeing the local lad return to the fray.

"It was great to get back," he told the club's official website. "It has been too long and the fans were wonderful with me from the moment I warmed up to when I got on the pitch.

"I felt really good and it was like being back home. I really appreciate the support and thank them for it.

Bond

"I think I am the only Manchester-born lad in the squad at the moment so perhaps there is a special bond, but City fans have always cherished their own and it was a special moment."

Johnson had been on the brink on first-team contention several times over the last year before suffering a setback.

Having been treated by world-renowned sports doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, though, Johnson believes his injury nightmare is firmly behind him.

Now he is focusing on regaining match fitness to push for a return to the starting line-up.

"Until recently, I could not remember the last time I had been pain free," he said.

"I recently visited Muller-Wohlfahrt in Munich and he has fixed me, and though I am nowhere near fit yet in terms of matches, I am able to get through work and games without pain. That is fantastic.

"I stayed a week in Germany and had a course of injections into my back and spine. I don't know what he put in there but it worked!"

Since being sidelined last September, Johnson has seen City bolster centre midfield with the likes of Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry, while fellow Academy product Stephen Ireland was named last season's player of the year.

Johnson has pleaded for patience from those expecting him to reproduce the form that saw him spearhead City's European push under Sven Goran Eriksson during the 2007-08 season.

Mental strength

But Johnson believes his injury ordeal has steeled himself for a battle to regain his first-team place.

"I never felt like I wouldn't come back but the whole absence has toughened me up mentally and that will serve me in good stead because as much as this game is about fitness and skill, you need to be mentally attuned too," he said.

"The worst thing about being out for so long is that it erodes your confidence and that is what I need to build up.

"I am still a young lad and I now appreciate more than ever what I have got. I am so keen to get back because playing football is the best thing in the world.

"There have been loads of changes while I have been out and we have gone from being a mid-table side to genuine contenders for honours, which is the aim.

"Watching things evolve has been inspiring," Johnson added. "I want to be part of a team that is competing for the title and with that comes the challenge of just winning a place in the side.

"Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and Stephen Ireland are all top-class international players and there is still Vinnie Kompany to come back too so am I well aware of the challenges that are ahead of me.

"But that is in the future. For now my aim is to get physically fit and this week has been part of that. The reserve game was tough against a good Liverpool side but I got forty-five minutes in.

"I hope people don't expect too much too soon. I have had a year of not playing and I am just glad to get out on a pitch and get running around."