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Carabao Cup

Glen Johnson: the coming of age

21 January 2021

June will mark 18 years since Roman Abramovich became the sole owner of Chelsea Football Club, and with the likes of Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Andriy Shevchenko and many more having come through the doors at Stamford Bridge, it has been a successful journey for Russian.

A question that may very well be used in a pub quiz or feature on an episode of BBC One’s Pointless sometime in the near future; can you name Chelsea’s first signing of the Abramovich era?

Glen Johnson is the answer.

Jose Mourinho - ‘The Special One’ - was appointed the season after Johnson arrived at Stamford Bridge, a confident manager who set off on a path that perhaps no one could have predicted. 

Mourinho secured Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup winners’ medals during his time in England, but Chelsea’s dramatic 2004/05 League Cup win over Liverpool was where it all began for the Portuguese manager.

A fresh-faced 21-year-old Johnson came on for Joe Cole in the final stages of that 2005 victory with the scores level at 1-1, minutes after Mourinho was famously sent-off for making a ‘shushing’ gesture towards the Liverpool fans after Steven Gerrard nodded past his own goalkeeper. 

Extra-time came and Chelsea powered on, with goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kežman sealing Mourinho’s first trophy in English football, and despite a late Antonio Nunez strike, the League Cup was Jose’s. 

 “With the final usually being played around February time, you can have a trophy under your belt before the season is even finished,” Johnson said, reflecting on the Final.  

“That’s was exactly how Mourinho approached the game, you win 10 games and you get your first medal of the season.

“That was his primary target, we went a goal down inside the first couple of minutes and I was on the bench, but I remember Didier Drogba scoring from my throw-in, and to win a trophy at such a young age was amazing.

“Abramovich didn’t buy the club and spend the money he spent on players not to win anything.

“I don’t think it was pressure off so to speak, but there was a realisation that we could actually win things, not that we ever doubted ourselves.

“There was obviously a lot of hype around the players that were coming into the club, so there was always going to be a bit of pressure on the team. But winning that Final against Liverpool was a way of saying to ourselves ‘look, we can do this, let’s take it a step further’.”

Chelsea would go onto win a league and cup double that season. 

A few seasons later Johnson would join Liverpool, the team who he saw off in that 05' Final at the Millennium Stadium. 

In 2012 he would have his hands on the League Cup once again as the Reds overcame a defiant Cardiff City side at Wembley, sneaking past the Bluebirds on penalties, in which Johnson was successful in finding the back of the net from 12-yards out. 

That trophy win ended a six-year wait for silverware, and despite being big favourites for the win before the game, Johnson knew overcoming their Football League counterparts was not going to be an easy task. 

“Without being arrogant, before the game we knew we were the better side but in cup football it sometimes doesn’t work like that,” he added. 

“You have to treat those games like you are playing the best team in the world, and against a team like Cardiff, who had nothing to lose. 

“Everyone played out of their skin because it was a Cup Final, and there are no easy games in Cup Finals. We were the better side on paper, we probably didn’t perform like it but luckily people only remember the win and not the performance.” 

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