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GLEN JOHNSON: Brand Ambassador and former Premier League footballer Glen Johnson gave us his list of sporting idols who he looked up to when he was younger.

When I was growing up and looking to become a professional footballer, there were a number of sporting greats in both football and in other sports who I looked up to as role models. In recent years, I’ve really got into golf as well as horse racing so I have huge respect for the likes of Tiger Woods and Sir AP McCoy who were both trailblazers in their respective fields. Watching Tiger win the Masters last year was one of the great sporting stories, while for McCoy to ride over 4,000 winners was an unbelievable achievement. However, I wasn’t into those sports at an early age and instead I’ve picked out three men who I idolised when I was younger.

Muhammad Ali

There aren’t many sportsman who can call themselves ‘The Greatest’ and get away with but Muhammad Ali is one of a very select few that could. He gave boxing a significance unlike anyone ever had before or has since for that matter and he really was an inspiration for many including myself.

When he died in 2016, the global outpouring of respect from pretty much the entire world was truly remarkable. To have presidents, prime ministers as well as icons from so many other industries come out and say how much he inspired them just showed what a brilliant role model he was. In order to make it in professional sport you have to be confident in your own abilities and back yourself that you can achieve your goals. Ali was a real inspiration to me because in the ring he elevated himself above the rest in what was a truly golden era for heavyweights, yet out of it he spoke brilliantly on a number of very pertinent issues at a time when the world was going through turbulent change.

He was a brilliant sportsman both in and out of the ring and it was a very sad day when he passed away.

Michael Johnson

While I wasn’t actually born when Ali was boxing, I was certainly around to witness Michael Johnson in his pomp. To dominate one event in athletics is impressive, but to dominate two and for as long as Johnson did was truly remarkable. The 200m and more specifically the 400m are such competitive events so to remain as consistently good as he did shows what a driven and hard-working athlete he was. Both of those characteristics are crucial for any sportsman because being talented will only get you so far and I definitely looked up to Jordan when I was growing up.

You just have to look at the numerous Olympic and World Championship gold medals he won as well as the countless world records he broke to show the dominance he had over his rivals. It’s very hard to think of a sportsman or woman who, in such a competitive sport like athletics, was so far ahead of their rivals for as long as Johnson was. Woods is perhaps the one that comes to mind, but whatever way you look at it, Johnson was one of my real role models as I was starting out.

Marcel Desailly

Ali and Johnson were the two in other sports I really looked up to, but Marcel Desailly was the footballer who really inspired me. It was obviously a massive honour to sign for Chelsea and one of the reasons for that was the calibre of player I’d get to play alongside. During my time at Stamford Bridge, I was very fortunate to play with some of the club’s greats including Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba, but Desailly was the one I idolised.

Before I joined, he was someone who I had always looked up to as the sort of player I wanted to base myself on and the fact I got to play with him was brilliant for me on both a personal and playing level. When I moved to Chelsea he was coming to the end of his time at the club, but that didn’t stop me learning huge amounts from him which really helped me throughout my career. To play with someone who made nearly 700 club appearances and had over 100 caps for France at that point in my career was invaluable for my development.

I’m very grateful to have played alongside him and I’m not sure I would have got to where I did without that spell alongside him at Chelsea.

glen johnson idols