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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 14, 2006

Neville hails 'unbelievable' team-mate Johnson

Phil Neville believe his Everton team-mate Andrew Johnson is 'pushing on the door for an England starting place'.

Johnson is poised to win only his fifth cap alongside Wayne Rooney in tomorrow's friendly international against Holland in Amsterdam.

The former Crystal Palace striker made his England debut against the opposition in February 2005 - when he was strangely played out of position on the right wing by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

This time Johnson is likely to be given the chance by Steve McClaren in his accustomed striking role after shining for Everton since his £8million summer move from Selhurst Park.

Johnson, who has netted six times for the Toffees, has impressed Neville with his all-round game and proved he is more than an out-and-out goalscorer.

Neville told PA Sport: 'Andy Johnson has taken his game onto an unbelievable level. When you trained with him with England last season, I used to think he was just a goalscorer.

'When you train with him day in and day out at club level, and you see his attitude, you know he has got more to his game than that.

'I think he is pushing on the door now for a starting place in the first XI for England. That's how far he has come in a short space of time.

'For the first international game of this season against Greece, he wasn't even in the squad.

'It's testament to him in terms of how hard he has worked and his great ability that he has come on so far in such a short space of time.

'He has definitely overtaken a lot of strikers this season.'

Johnson was believed to be pushing hard for a place for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia last month but was forced to withdraw from the squad with a hamstring injury.

McClaren has been impressed by the player who began his career with Birmingham and had to overcome the perception that - at 5ft 7in - he was too small to become a top-notch striker.

A move to Palace in 2002 sparked an upturn in fortunes with Johnson scoring 32 goals in his first season to help the Eagles win promotion to the top-flight.

Johnson continued in the same vein in 2004-2005 by finishing as the top English goalscorer in the Premiership, but his efforts could not save Palace from relegation and he made the move to Everton 12 months later.

The career of the 25-year-old is blossoming after preferring Everton to either Wigan or Bolton in the summer and he will be determined to make his mark in the Amsterdam Arena.

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