Skip to content

Michael Johnson: Ex-Man City star who had the world at his feet, dubbed the ‘next Colin Bell’

Former Man City and England prodigy dubbed as the ‘next Colin Bell’, Michael Johnson had the world at his feet at only 18 years of age, but what was to come was heartbreaking.

Michael Johnson started off his youth career at Leeds United followed by short stints with Feyenoord, Crewe Alexandra then Liverpool and Everton where he spent 2 years at youth level.

He then made the move to Man City where he inevitably made the jump up to senior level in 2006.

johnson manchester city
Michael Johnson taking a corner, by stella_gonzales2003, CC BY 2.0.

21st October 2006, Michael Johnson made his professional debut with City, starting the game but coming out with a 4-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic at the formerly known JJB Stadium.

Michael Johnson made his second start for the Citizens in a comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in March 2007, which saw him make SEVEN consecutive appearances.

15 August 2007: A young English talent emerges at Man City

On the 15th of August 2007, Michael Johnson got off the mark at Manchester City by netting his first senior-level goal. Everyone started to take note, knowing this kid was going to be special.

Michael Johnson scores his first Man City goal against Derby County in a 1-0 win at Eastlands

It didn’t take long until Michael Johnson bagged another City goal, this time at the expense of Aston Villa.

16 September 2007: A superb solo effort

Michael Johnson showed everyone why he was dubbed the ‘next Colin Bell’ thanks to this dazzling solo effort, a goal the late Colin Bell would have been proud of.

Manchester City 1-0 Aston Villa – Michael Johnson’s superb solo effort separated the two sides.

Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa took them to 2nd in the Premier League table, which no one expected. It was a fantastic start to the season for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men.

Michael Johnson was becoming one of the hottest young prospects in English football, earning a long-awaited call-up to the England U21 squad.

Manchester City were so desperate to keep Johnson that they rejected a £12m bid from Liverpool, back then it was a substantial amount of money.

With the world at his feet, what could possibly go wrong?

2008-2011: Nothing but injury setbacks

A succession of injuries started to halt Johnson’s career, injuries including a double hernia, hamstring, and a knee problem meant he could never manage to regain full fitness.

michael johnson man city
Michael Johnson only made 10 further appearances for City due to a long list of injuries. (Image credit: Manchester Evening News)

Michael Johnson was to be loaned out to Leicester City during the 2011-12 season to try and re-ignite the lost spark that was caused by constant fitness and injury problems.

He only managed to play 9 times for the Foxes before they cut his loan deal short due to FURTHER INJURY SETBACKS.

A once blossoming career was starting to turn into a NIGHTMARE for the frustrated Michael Johnson.

2012-13: The sad and bitter end to a short, painful career full of mixed emotions

In June 2012, back at Manchester City. Michael Johnson was to be ARRESTED on suspicion of drink-driving after an early morning car crash.

Still, at only 24 years of age, he was believed to have smashed his Mercedes GLS into a parked BMW X5.

In the summer of 2013, Man City finally cut ties with Michael Johnson and released him paying his £25,000 a week release wages.

Michael Johnson then faced his toughest challenge yet, overcoming the battle of depression.

The former City star said: “My mindset was just really low. Really low. I had no confidence, no self-esteem. That light at the end of the tunnel just went.”

Michael Johnson finally took himself to seek counselling it was revealed, he checked himself into The Priory for help which Is a rehab centre for mental health and addiction.

michael johnson man city
Michael Johnson, pictured inside a McDonald’s, looked almost unrecognisable from his playing days only a few years before. (Image credit: Huffington Post UK)

Johnson said: “This is the thing with depression. When you are stuck in that mindset, you find any way you can to try and make yourself feel better.”

2015: The re-emergence of Johnson

In January 2015 at just 26 years of age, Michael Johnson opened up his own estate agents business called Trading Places in Urmston, Greater Manchester.

He became a co-director of the business with partner and City fan, Steve Cox, 41.

His partner is a city fan too, Johnson said it gave them a “common bond”.

michael johnson now
A smiling Johnson pictured with partner Steve Cox at Trading Places (Image credit: Manchester Evening News)

Last seen in the news in 2021, he opens up about his fight with depression and alcohol.

He is now looking very well and appears to have his life back on track which is tremendous news knowing how dangerous depression can be.

If have read this article and you are feeling depressed, please reach out for help. We have added a few numbers for helplines below.


Samaritans: 116 213

SANEline: 0300 304 7000

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 0800 689 5652