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Right Wing Politics

At the venerable age of 28, Glen Johnson finds himself in the veteran category at Liverpool Football Club. He's been speaking about his role as Melwood's resident interpreter and insisting his best is still ahead as a footballer.

Clive Brunskill

Despite a marked decline in his form in recent weeks, it's fair to say that over the course of the season, Glen Johnson has been one of Liverpool's premier performers. The England man's puissant and adroit displays on the flank have been a feature of most of the club's better outings. Johnson's adaptability makes him comfortably adept on the left, but it is on the right wing that he has excelled most. Interestingly, his preferred partner on the flank is Stewart Downing, whose transformation into a competent winger has impressed the defender.

"Stewart has been fantastic; his work-rate, the way he gets at players and defences. A lot of the time in football, a lot of hard work can go unnoticed. Stewart did knuckle down, put his neck on the line and went for it. It's great to see, now he's getting the rewards and credit he deserves."

Johnson seems to be an inordinately amiable fellow and rarely has a bad word to say about anyone, unless they are called Roy Hodgson and they've idiotically insulted him. His positive views on Downing will raise an eyebrow or nine and bring scornful sneering and derision from some. On many occasions, such censure has been undeniably warranted. For the record, my final take on the Stewpot Conundrum is as follows: Not being awfully fond of the chap as a footballer and a character and yet retaining the ability to acknowledge that he has become at least serviceable in red, are not mutually exclusive positions.

It's interesting to hear Johnson pondering the age profile of the squad at Melwood. None of us are immune to the ravages wrought by time's transcience and there is definitely something a touch rueful about the full-back's observations on the topic.

"There are times when you see a group of young lads knocking around and you're six or seven years older than most of them. Obviously this day was always going to come, but I don't feel old in my body, so it's good. Everybody is probably different at when they hit their peak but, in general, people have said that around 28 or 29 you hit your peak, so we'll see. When you come through, you always look at the older players, to learn from them, day in, day out and I'm sure the younger players do the same here."

I've got ten years on Glen Johnson, so I recognise this rationalising as the grim acceptance of having become a veteran. One takes solace in the supposed status of being an elder lemon - a kind of yoga-studying, wheat-grass imbibing Yoda, who can guide the wayward Shelveys and Susos along the virtuous path to longevity. In reality, you just wish you were in that group of youthful scamps about to eat some chicken nuggets and do something unadvisable on Twitter.

Should football cease to keep Johnson in the style to which he's become accustomed, he has the potential to launch another career as interpreter to the stars. The Spanish lessons which convinced Britain's tabloids that a move to La Liga was inevitable, have stood him in good stead as he shuttles around the training complex like some kind of UN envoy, brokering deals and translating Brendanisms for bewildered Brazilians, Uruguayans and Moroccans.

"I can get involved with the Spanish group, so I guess it helps me out because I can mingle with pretty much everybody. I can understand the Scouse boys. Coutinho can speak a bit of Spanish as well; the lads that can't speak English can generally speak Spanish, so we get by."

Clearly, the most illuminating part of these revelations is not the generally positive atmosphere that Johnson seems to hint at between the factions on the playing staff; nor is it the selfless efforts on his part to "mingle," thereby becoming a one-man force, fostering positive international relations. No, patently, the most delightfully arresting part of his observations is that he rates his efforts at speaking Spanish to the foreign lads as no greater an achievement than understanding the high-pitched Scouse exchanges between Carragher and Gerrard. That's just priceless.

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