Hines praised by Johnson

Liverpool and England right-back Glen Johnson was back on familiar territory during the Reds' 3-2 Barclays Premier League victory at West Ham United on Saturday.

The 25-year-old spent the formative years at the Academy of Football, signing his first professional contract at the age of 16 before going on to make 16 first-team appearances and then making a £6m switch across London to Chelsea.

After a three-year stay at Portsmouth, Johnson joined Liverpool in July. Since then, he has impressed for both club and country with his buccaneering full-back play.

On Saturday, however, he was given a thorough examination in the shape of another Academy graduate, Jamaican forward Zavon Hines.

While Johnson is too old to have come across the 20-year-old during his time at Little Heath, he will certainly never forget the difficult afternoon Hines gave him at the Boleyn Ground.

The Greenwich-born player praised the impact made by Hines on what was his full home debut, revealing that the striker had asked him for his shirt at the end of what was a rip-roaring game.

"It was nice to be back," he said. "I always enjoy playing here as I obviously spent the majority of my life here. Things are going well for me at the moment, so I can't complain. We're playing well and picking up results.

"I didn't know Zavon while I was here, but he has a bit of pace and looks like a decent player. Thankfully, we did the job and won the game and that was the most important thing.

"At the end of the game, he asked if he could have my shirt, so I was more than happy to give it to him."

While Johnson is one of a host of Academy products impressing for Fabio Capello's England, the defender said he had been struck by the next generation of claret and blue youngsters, including James Tomkins, Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas and Hines, who have blossomed under the expert eye of Academy Director Tony Carr.

"It doesn't surprise me to see all the youngsters that the club continues to produce. About 90 per cent of the coaching staff were here when I was here so it comes as no shock to me at all."