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The relationship between a great player and the football clubs he plays for is one of the most diverse aspects of football. Some players spend most or all of their career at one club - Jamie Carragher, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville come to mind. Some players will transfer between clubs multiple times, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Nicolas Anelka. And some are in between, who have played for just a few clubs but made enough of an impact at each of them to be loved by each set of fans. Michael Johnson is one such player. Born in Nottingham in 1973, Johnson played for the well-known Clifton All-Whites, a regional youth team whose alumni include Jermaine Jenas and Garry Birtles. In 1991, he made his debut for Notts County, away at Arsenal. It proved a baptism of fire for the then 18-year old, as a tough Gunners team containing stars such as Ian Wright and Tony Adams triumphed 2-0. Johnson also played against Coventry, Norwich, Sheffield United and Manchester City that season. Sadly, it was to be his only season with Notts in the top flight, as the Magpies were relegated that year. The 92/93 season, in the newly rebranded Division One, saw Johnson becoming a first-team regular, playing 37 league games as the Magpies finished 17th in a very tight league, just three points above the relegation zone. Despite being only nineteen, Johnson played with maturity and composure beyond his years, and never gave less than 100%. 93/94 saw Notts perform admirably and finish in seventh, just three points shy of the playoffs. Johnson was once again a permanent fixture in defence, playing 33 league games. The Magpies also made it all the way to the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup, where Johnson faced up to the mighty Gheorghe Hagi, the Romanian who would go on to lead his team to the quarter finals of the World Cup just a few months later. Sadly, the 17,185 inside Wembley saw Brescia lift the Cup after outplaying Notts and winning 1-0. 94/95 was a devastating season for Notts, as Mick Walker was sacked early on, and a succession of managers and unsettling off-pitch turmoil led to poor results on the pitch. Johnson played 27 league games but couldn't stop the team finishing rock bottom, though he did at least get his hands on some silverware by helping Notts win the Anglo-Italian Cup against Ascoli in March. The summer saw Johnson move to newly promoted Birmingham City for around £300,000, and his powerful, swift and committed defending saw the Blues consolidate their position in the First Division. From that first season, the team went from strength to strength each year, finishing higher and higher, as Johnson developed more as a player and added goalscoring to his repertoire. By 98/99, he was indispensable, having played in every league game that season and scoring five times as they made the playoffs, where they lost to eventual winners Watford. This year would also see Johnson earn the first of his twelve caps for Jamaica, coming on as a sub against Sweden in a friendly played in Stockholm on the 27th May. Johnson would experience play-off heartache twice more in successive years, before his team finally nailed it at the fourth time of asking by beating Norwich to finally reach the Premier League. Throughout that long, arduous and often deflating journey, Johnson was always a first team regular. Heartache of a different kind came as the second-tier team made it all the way to the League Cup final, playing in Cardiff against Liverpool. They took the Reds, who would finish the season with three trophies, all the way to penalties, where they sadly lost out in the most erratic and agonising of ways. In a bid to survive their first season back in the top flight, a spate of signings were made at Birmingham, which saw Johnson lose his first-team place. After playing just six games all season, he was allowed to leave, and, remaining local, he signed for Derby County. It didn't take long for him to win a place in the Rams' first team and the fans' hearts, as he played 39 games and scored once, helping Derby survive a tumultous season where they narrowly avoided relegation. Unlike his time at Birmingham, where each season was consistently good and saw the team finish in the top six, Derby were challenging for the play-offs one year and fighting relegation the next. Nevertheless, Johnson was consistently solid and reliable, becoming club captain in 2005/06. The following season, under new ownership and under the tutelage of Billy Davies, Derby cemented themselves into the promotion positions, leading for most of the season before a late drop in form saw them fall into the play-off zone. Johnson was in the first-team picture playing 29 times, although injury problems saw him miss the end of the season, including the winning play-off games which confirmed Derby's place into the Premier League. Another promotion, another set of hearts won over. Because of a change of management and new signings being made in the close season, Johnson found himself out of the first team. Anxious to find the right club at this late stage in his career, the then 34-year old opted for Sheffield Wednesday, joining the club on an initial one month loan in September. He instantly made an impact as he helped the Owls pick up the first points of the season against Hull on 22nd September. Such was his professionalism, class and commitment that his stay was extended to three months, the maximum possible term for emergency loans. Back at Derby, Johnson, in a bit of a limbo, nevertheless showed immense professionalism to do his best for the club, and when he came on for the Rams in a cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday, that rarest of occurrences took place: both teams cheered his appearance and were chanting his name and praising him, a testament to a great professional and great man. Sadly, despite improving the squad and winning the fans' hearts in just thirteen games, a permanent contract at Sheffield Wednesday wasn't to be, as the Owls opted to sign a young Mark Beevers instead. The Owls' loss was the Magpies' gain, and on 29th February 2008, Notts saw the prodigal son return to Meadow Lane. Initially on loan, Johnson slotted straight into the back four and played twelve times, scoring the winner against Rochdale and helping the team narrowly avoid relegation. His final season as a player was with his hometown club, as Notts signed the player on a permanent one year deal. Another tricky season for the club saw Johnson play 29 times, his experience helping the club survive another year in the Football League. His final game came against Dagenham and Redbridge on 25th April 2009. Earlier on in the year, he was offered the chance to become youth team manager the following season, which he duly took up. During the enigma that was the 09/10 season, he temporarily took over the first team reins with Dave Kevan, and during his two matches in charge, he won one and drew one. Sadly - and how many times have I found myself saying the word in this article - things didn't work out at Notts, he was dismissed when Paul Ince was relieved of his duties and replaced by Under 12s coach Brett Adams. Not one to be affected by setbacks, Johnson carried on studying for his coaching qualifications, and in June 2012, he qualified for the prestigious UEFA Pro Licence. In October, he rejoined Birmingham, taking charge of the Under-16s squad in the academy. A campaigner for equality in sport, he demonstrated his coaching techniques in a FA-funded scheme aimed at promoting coaches and managers from minority ethnic backgrounds in August 2012, and in November, he spoke to the BBC about the lack of opportunities for black and Asian coaches, drawing from his own experiences in the field. Johnson has also involved himself in several ambassadorial roles, which include Help Harry Help Others, a charity raising awareness of brain cancer, Birmingham Children's Hospital, and Real United Football Club, a Nottingham-based team set up to reduce substance misuse and related criminal activity amongst young people in Nottingham. In the last two years, Johnson has been an ambassador at Derby, where he carries out a wide variety of roles including coaching, mentoring, assisting corporate clients and media for in-house station Rams TV, as well as a board member at the League Managers Association and a founder member of On Board and Sports People's Think Tank, and his latest role - manager of Guyana. A tireless, inspirational man throughout his whole career in every venture he's been involved in, few players are as cherished and revered by so many different clubs, fans and people as Michael Johnson. What did you think of Michael Johnson when he was at Notts? Do you have any stand-out memories of him? Let Pride of Nottingham know by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation. Fancy showcasing your brand or business on Pride of Nottingham? Click here to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities with us.
Former Notts County defender Michael Johnson has stated that a Rooney Rule in football will allow black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) coaches to showcase their talent. Despite BAME footballers constituting almost 30 per cent of players, the percentage of BAME senior coaches at professional football clubs currently stands at 4.6 per cent. At present, there are five BAME managers in the top four divisions - Keith Curle, Chris Hughton, Nuno Espirito Santo, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Jack Lester. Named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and introduced in 2003, the rule states that at least one ethnic minority candidate must be interviewed for each senior coaching position. Johnson praised the Football League for the Rooney Rule scheme it piloted last season, which he said has resulted in an "uplift" in the number of BAME coaches recruited for academy coaching roles. But the under-representation of BAME coaches in first-team managerial positions remains an issue, and Johnson believes the implementation of the rule would help address the disparity. "We're not saying anybody because you're black or because you're Asian should get a job," Johnson told Sky Sports News. "No, absolutely not. "What we are saying is that it would be great just to get an opportunity to be in the interview room and just be part of that interview process. Just let somebody look at you and see what you're all about. "At the minute, there are not enough black or Asian coaches getting through the door to be allowed to showcase their skills. The Rooney Rule would be a remedy." Share your thoughts about this news story on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with hundreds of fellow Notts County fans. Fancy showcasing your brand or business on Pride of Nottingham? Click here to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities with us.
Several former Notts County stars have paid tribute to Derek Pavis, who passed away last month aged 87. The former Magpies chairman, who has the west stand at Meadow Lane named in his honour, guided the Magpies through their most successful period in their recent history. He also oversaw the redevelopment of the stadium before stepping aside after 13 years at the helm at the age of 70. On Friday, Pavis was laid to rest in Nottingham, with hundreds of people paying their respects to him. "He didn't beat around the bush," former defender and coach Michael Johnson is quoted as saying by the Nottingham Post. "For my first contract I asked for £100 more and he said 'there's only so much meat on the bone, my lad'. "He gave me my start in football though. I've got a lot to be thankful to him for. "There was a lot of advice and a lot of wisdom. I remember travelling to an FA Cup game with him when I was coaching. "He was full of stories and through them all it was clear how much he loved Notts County. "It's a sad day, but hopefully a celebration of what he's done for a fantastic club." Mark Draper said: "That was said to me many times! 'There's only so much meat on the bone'. Every time a contract was mentioned he'd say that. "I think it became tongue in cheek by the end. He was in charge during a great time for the club and for me. "Just look at how much the club progressed. The ground now is fantastic, we had the promotions and even with a relegation chucked in there, he achieved great things. "Football has changed, but you can't take away the memories he leaves behind." Dean Thomas reminisced: "The first time I met Derek was when he came to watch me play for Northampton. Neil Warnock dragged him down to watch me. "I think I got sent off after 25 minutes but they still signed me! We got on great and had a respectful relationship. "Towards the end when I got a bad knee injury he gave me a testimonial. "He stuck by me. He's done great things for the club and we had great times. "I'm grateful he let Warnock sign me. He mixed with the players well and was respected by everyone. "One of his favourite sayings was 'there's only so much meat on the bone', in terms of negotiations. You'd ask for a figure and he'd say this is what you're getting. "We had good times though. He's gone knowing that he's brought a lot of people in Nottingham a lot of pleasure." Ian Richardson added: "He helped me personally with a property I wanted to buy. I've got fond memories of him. "He was a chairman you could always go to for answers or help with problems, not just when it came to football, but man to man." Share your memories of the great man Derek Pavis on the Pride of Nottingham forum.