Signed from Crystal Palace for a club record £8.6million in May 2006, Andrew Johnson arrived at Goodison with a burgeoning reputation as one of the best natural finishers in England.
Something of a late developer, Johnson had started out at Birmingham City, his boyhood club, at the start of the decade, but having failed to make a significant breakthrough was sold to Crystal Palace in 2002 as a makeweight in the deal that brought Clinton Morrison to St Andrews. Under the management of Iain Dowie his all-round play improved significantly at Selhurst Park and Johnson finished the 2003/04 season – the year Palace won promotion – top scorer with 32 goals. Johnson’s streak of form continued the following year, when he scored 21 Premier League goals (half of Palace’s total) – a tally bettered only by Arsenal’s Thierry Henry. Despite Palace’s relegation, Johnson stayed at Selhurst Park for a further year but his club failed to return to the top flight.
Small and lean, with a lightning turn of pace, quicksilver feet and a low centre of gravity, Johnson seemed to be the goal-poacher Everton had so desperately lacked since the days of Tony Cottee and Gary Lineker. First impressions bore this out: a debut goal against Watford was taken clinically, likewise a cool finish that brought a rare victory away at Tottenham.
JOHNSON’S finest hour unquestionably came in only his fourth Everton appearance, against Liverpool at Goodison. Already 1-0 up, on 35 minutes he coolly took advantage of Jamie Carragher’s mistake to make it 2-0. Then in the final minute, Pepe Reina fumbled Lee Carsley’s shot and Johnson headed home from close range to seal a famous win.
Andrew Johnson is an unbelievable striker and is going to get goals,’ said David Moyes afterwards. ‘He fought hard and showed character and now he knows what it means to be a Blue.
Yet Johnson’s partnership with James Beattie never gelled, and as Moyes eased the latter out of contention, increasingly reverting to his favoured 4-5-1 formation, Johnson was left to take on additional responsibilities, often straying out into wide positions. Although his work rate was excellent and he never shirked these new tasks, it seemed to decrease his effectiveness in front of goal. The ease with which he took his early goals left him, and Johnson sometimes seemed to be afflicted with hesitancy when it seemed easy to score. The goals did not entirely dry up, however, as witness his excellent last-minute shot through a crowded penalty area that sealed a memorable victory over Arsenal in March 2007. The arrival of Yakubu the following August saw Everton’s reliance on Johnson diminish, and Moyes increasingly used him as a substitute to stretch games late on. Although a valuable member of the squad and one of the few pacy outlets Everton possessed, his contribution was overshadowed by the scintillating Nigerian, and at the season’s end he found himself outscored not just by Yakubu, but Tim Cahill and even Joleon Lescott. With a paucity of transfer funds in summer 2008, Moyes deemed Johnson sacrificable and accepted an offer of £10.5million from Fulham for the striker.
Born in Bedford, but of Polish stock, Johnson chose England over his grandparents’ country, making eight appearances, the last against Israel in September 2007.