Johnson thrilled with Reds impact
Glen Johnson admits he could hardly have expected a better start to his Liverpool career.
The England full-back was the star of the show when Liverpool won 4-0 at Anfield against Stoke last night. He scored on his home debut and helped to create two more in a devastating display of attacking full-back play down the right.
And manager Rafael Benitez, Stoke boss Tony Pulis and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard were lining up to praise Johnson, who turns 25 on Saturday. Even in defeat at Spurs last weekend Johnson was the Liverpool star turn, winning a penalty with a battling run into the box and attacking on the flank whenever the chance came along.
Greenwich-born Johnson reckons his instant form is all down to the speed with which he has adapted to his new surroundings. He said: "It has been absolutely brilliant for me so far at Liverpool. The lads and everyone at the club have been fantastic.
"It has been great for me and helped me to settle in here quickly, and that has shown in my performances already so I am delighted. It was great to run out at Anfield, and to get the three points and keep a clean sheet made it a perfect night for me.
"To score a goal made it even better. Obviously it was brilliant to score my first for Liverpool and to do it on my home debut was amazing, but the win was more important to get us out of the starting blocks. It was great to be part of the home side here for a change. As an opponent the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when the fans at Anfield sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' so to hear them singing it for you is very special.
"At a club like Liverpool you don't want to lose any match, so to lose the first game of the season was disappointing. But the lads showed great character to put that behind us and hopefully we can go on a good run now."
Gerrard praised his England team-mate, saying: "We saw what Glen will offer this team with the run that won the penalty at Spurs. He cut inside and left people for dead. He showed similar form against Stoke and was outstanding on the right for us."
Stoke boss Pulis witnessed his side being pulled apart by Johnson's display and the partnership with Dirk Kuyt. Pulis said: "Johnson and Kuyt down the right caused us loads and loads of problems. They have great players all over the pitch. Not only (Fernando) Torres and Gerrard, who are world class. (Yossi) Benayoun comes in off the left flank and does damage, and they attack you at every point."
Benitez's decision to add an attacking full-back to his squad who could make an impact in tough home games where teams defend in depth was vindicated. The Spanish coach said: "We were looking for a player with quality going forward, to produce more chances from the wide areas.
"We knew Johnson could score goals. From set-pieces he is dangerous, we initially worked with (Javier) Mascherano in that close-in position by the keeper at corners, but decided to change because Johnson was proving to be good in that role.
"His goal was proof of that. He can give us something more on the right, he can play almost as a winger with good distribution when he goes forward. And that allows Kuyt to move inside also to support Torres. Last season we had too many home draws, and that cost us. I felt that an attacking full-back like Johnson would give us something extra, and his display underlined that view."
Benitez also dismissed wild speculation that he was about to quit, with one radio chat show even saying that he had resigned during the afternoon and Sammy Lee was in charge. Speculative betting also helped create a situation that Benitez laughed off, saying: "I was told at Melwood (training ground) of the rumour. But that is the sort of thing that happens in this city sometimes.
"But it is nonsense. I repeat that I have committed myself to this club, I decided to stay here for the staff, the fans and the players when I signed my new contract. Nothing has changed. My commitment is 100 per cent."