Roger Johnson's split loyalties

The Birmingham central defender is an unsung, unfashionable player who Fabio Capello, the England team manager, has been urged to consider.

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So commanding and courageous have been the performances of Roger Johnson this season that there is a Facebook group dedicated to help him gain an England place. There are 2, 220 members and counting. But, irrespective of the numbers, one man's opinion will ultimately matter. Like Bobby Zamora at Fulham, the Birmingham central defender is an unsung, unfashionable player who Fabio Capello, the England team manager, has been urged to consider.

Johnson, 26, has been a model of consistency since his club's return to the top flight. His partnership with Scott Dann is one of the main reasons why Birmingham have only conceded five goals at home and they have developed a telepathic understanding since being signed in the summer from Cardiff and Coventry respec- tively. Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, saw their potential in the Championship and has proved an astute judge of quality and character.

Wholehearted and no nonsense in their style, Johnson and Dann are Birmingham's backbone and prompted McLeish to compare them with formidable defensive partnerships of the past, such as Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson at Liverpool and his own with Willie Miller for Aberdeen and Scotland. "These guys are showing signs of phenomenal consistency," said McLeish. "They've just got to keep playing at the same level, and they will get recognised [internationally] if they do it for a long time and consistently well."

Today's clash with the rampant Didier Drogba will be a timely test of their credentials. As a youngster, Johnson was a Chelsea season-ticket holder and still attends their home Champions League games when possible. Johnson has studies footage of Chelsea captain John Terry. "He is a great player and, if I can emulate anything he has achieved, it will be good," Johnson said. Johnson will also hope to avoid upsetting his family if Chelsea's recent poor run, which stands at one win in six, continues today.

"My dad is a Chelsea fan, as are my brothers, and even my mum, who was a Manchester United fan until she met my dad, follows them," he added. "It would be great to beat a team of the quality of Chelsea, although I'm not sure most of my family would ever forgive me." If it helps him towards an England call-up, they probably will. akhan@thenational.ae Birmingham v Chelsea, KO 4.45pm, Showsports 1&2