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First Team News

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Johnno puts his holidays on hold

Michael Johnson 0809

Michael Johnson 0809

Michael Johnson is ready to leave his passport in the drawer and commit himself to a long, hot summer of hard work to be in tip-top shape for City's Barclays Premier League kick-off in August.

The Blues' talented 21-year-old midfielder, frustrated by pelvic and abdominal injuries since last September, will bid to put his lost season firmly behind him by swapping the beach for Carrington's training pitch.

Johnno is desperate to take up a meaningful role as the City revolution gathers momentum under Mark Hughes, and the manager has urged him to follow Stephen Ireland's highly-successful example of last summer.

Ireland's extra solo work before the tough pre-season sessions kicked in have underpinned a great season at home and in Europe that saw him narrowly miss out on the PFA Young Player of the Year award last weekend.

Stevie sharpened up with voluntary hill-running and martial arts last summer, and Hughes has warned the squad that he is preparing to make even more physical demands in pre-season training than 12 months ago.

He said: "Stevie is a fantastic example for anyone - he has been a shining light. When you get yourself into a good physical condition like he has, it shows what you can achieve with a consistent run of games.

"Johnno can't afford to have the whole five or six weeks off completely. He is going to have to work really hard in the summer to make sure that he is fit, well and raring to go on that first day back.

"We have to hit the ground running when we come back. We're not going to ease people in, because with the base of the work we have done this year, we are looking to up the work we do in pre-season. Everybody has to come back in good shape."

Hughes shares his skipper Richard Dunne's genuine bemusement at Ireland being left empty-handed when the players voted for Aston Villa's Ashley Young as the PFA award winner ahead of City's deserving candidate.

He said: "Possibly we are a bit biased, but if the vote had been taken either just before or just after last weekend, then he would have walked it.

"It is disappointing for Stephen because I think he merits the award, but I was really impressed with his response. Once he got wind that he was not going to get the award his attitude was, 'I'll have to win it next year.'

"That is exactly what you want from your player - and he has a real drive and a mentality that will enable him to do that, which is a great credit to him."

Ireland and Brazil star Robinho have shared the plaudits and headlines this season. Hughes said: "You are always hyper-critical as a manager. Sometimes you can be over-critical and focus on the negatives.

"But even I recognise the quality they produce as individuals and as a pair. They were outstanding at Everton. Stephen and Robi's relationship is blossoming, but it's not just those two, the team is getting better all-round.

"The amount of time they have all played together as a group now is helping. We are at that stage where there is more understanding of what the team is trying to achieve. I think we're seeing that improving now."

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Shaun Wright Phillips 0809

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Mark Hughes pitchside 0809

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Stephen Ireland 0809

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