AJ out to impress

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Crystal Palace hot-shot Andy Johnson is desperate to send a World Cup reminder to Steve McClaren in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night.

The England assistant manager is preparing his Middlesbrough side to face the Championship outfit, and will come face-to-face with the striker who he knows well from the international setup.

Johnson is ready to make his first start since September 13 after recovering from a knee injury, and needs to hit top form if he is to claim a spot in the squad to travel to Germany in the summer.

The rise to prominence of Darren Bent and Peter Crouch means that Johnson's prospects are much dimmer than last season, especially as he is plying his trade at a lower level.

However the former Birmingham man is keen to remind McClaren just what his qualities are at The Riverside in the last 16 clash.

"It's in my mind I'll be playing in front of Steve so I'll be working my socks off to try and get a goal or two," said Johnson.

"The main priority is winning the game."

Johnson is also keen to ensure that Eagles boss Iain Dowie remains at the club after Portsmouth were rebuffed in an approach for the talented young manager.

Speculation over Dowie's future has led to his future with the London side being questioned, but Johnson believes that Palace must hold onto their boss if they are to return to The Premiership at the first attempt.

"We'd put our arms around him to stop him going, he's the key to us getting promoted," added Johnson.

Dowie is well aware that in Johnson he has one of the most gifted players outside The Premiership, and the Palace boss has admitted that the club are unlikely to keep hold of their star man for another year if they fail to achieve promotion.

Aside from the danger of potential suitors, Dowie acknowledges that the financial rewards involved in selling their most valuable player would be highly attractive.

"If we don't go up this year, we will have a hell of a job keeping AJ at the club," said Dowie.

"People will be circling, and you have to try to force them off.

"But in the end, economics become a factor. We would have been out of the Premiership for a year, and the parachute payments would be one year away from running out.

"The chairman does not have a bottomless pot of money. He wants to see the club as a viable business."