Man City's Michael Johnson and Five More Forgotten Footballing Prodigies


MICHAEL JOHNSON

Prodigy Credentials: Thrust into Premier Lague action by Sven Goran Eriksson at Eastlands in 2007, Johnson became a teen sensation. The dynamic midfielder drifted past players for fun - scoring goals like this - thus earning comparisons with Paul Gascoigne and Steven Gerrard, and being the subject of a £10million bid from Liverpool.

Final Report: Struggled with a recurrent abdominal injury - and a reported penchant for nighclubs and fast food restaurants - and was released by City last month, after a picture of him looking overweight appeared on the internet. He hadn't featured for Roberto Mancini's side in the league for four years. 

WAYNE HARRISON

Prodigy Credentials: A child phenomenon honed at Oldham, Harrison was setting the Athletic youth team alight when Liverpool shocked everyone, not least Oldham boss Joe Royle, with a world record £250,000 bid for the teenager in 1985. He swiftly moved to Anfield amidst a sea of media attention just after his 17th birthday.

Final Report: Started brightly in Liverpool’s reserves but a bizarre accident – he crashed through a greenhouse and almost died through loss of blood – triggered a long series of injuries that he never recovered from. Retired in 1991, aged 22. Last seen driving a HGV Van for Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport.

HUNG DANG 

Prodigy Credentials: A Vietnamese boat-boy, Hung arrived on a Taunton council estate at the age of seven after fleeing the communist regime of his homeland. Beat 10,000 hopefuls to be crowned Bobby Charlton’s national soccer skills champion in 1985 and consequently joined Lilleshall’s fledgling national school. Bagged both goals in a 2-1 England Schoolboys victory live on national TV in 1987. Signed for Spurs later that year. 

Final Report: Suffered a severe stress fracture in his spine shortly after arriving at White Hart Lane. Never played professional football but recovered to turn out at a local level back in Somerset. 

CHERNO SAMBA                                 

Prodigy Credentials: Came to prominence as a 13-year-old in 1998, after scoring 132 goals in 32 youth team games. Signed by Millwall and carried on his form for England at every age group, sparking a bidding war between Liverpool and Man Utd that went into the millions, yet The Lions resisted the cash. 

Final Report: Never made a first team appearance for Millwall and was released in 2004, six months short of his 20thbirthday. Has since made fleeting appearances for Plymouth and Wrexham as well as a number of non-descript European teams. Last seen on the bench at Norwegian 2nd Division also-rans, FK Tonsberg. Destined to be known as a legend on Championship Manager, but not in real life.  

OWEN PRICE

Prodigy Credentials: Price announced himself with a goal from the halfway line at Highbury in a national schools final of 1999, and later kept Wayne Rooney out of the England Schoolboys team. He impressed Spurs so much they paid Charlton £500,000 for the 14-year-old. Adidas jumped on board too, signing him up to 10-year boot deal. The World was at Owen’s pricey feet.

Final Report: Briefly shone in pre-season friendlies for Tottenham under Jacques Santini, but was released soon after Martin Jol arrived. Later played lower league football in Sweden and Finland and back on home soil for Lewes, Northwich Victoria, and Farnborough Town.

SONNY PIKE

Prodigy Credentials: The ultimate child prodigy, Pike seemed to be on TV more regularly than Chris Evans in the ‘90s. He’d been snapped up by Ajax’s prestigious youth academy at the age of seven and was heralded as the future of English football by Blue Peter, Baddiel and Skinner's Fantasy Football, The Big Breakfast and a documentary series called Touched With Fire.   

Final Report: Released by Ajax when his body failed to mature at the same rate as his contemporaries, the pressure became too much and Sonny gave up on his pro dream. Changed his name to Luke Pike upon signing for Waltham Forest in the Ryman League a few years back. Most recently played Sunday League for Dryburgh Saints while studying for a Psychology degree at Dundee University.

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