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Poyet tips Johnson to make a positive impact for England in Brazil
GUSTAVO POYET feels Adam Johnson is tailor-made for a World Cup finals in South America, but admits the Sunderland winger will have to maintain his recent fine form until the end of the season to have any chance of representing England in Brazil.
Roy Hodgson will make his first trip to the Stadium of Light since being appointed as England manager this afternoon to run the rule over Johnson, who was named Premier League Player of the Month for January yesterday.
The 26-year-old has scored six goals in his last four league matches, a run that could well see him win his 13th international cap when England take on Denmark in a friendly at Wembley next month.
Beyond that, Johnson will hope to replace the injured Theo Walcott in the England squad that travels to this summer's World Cup finals, and Poyet believes the Brazilian conditions make the Easington winger an ideal candidate for a place in Hodgson's plans.
With England's opening game against Italy taking place in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where humidity levels are likely to be over 80 per cent, the tempo of the play is unlikely to be at Premier League levels. Instead, players will have to produce explosive bursts of energy, something that Johnson has perfected in recent games.
“I don't know exactly how England will play (in Brazil), but you would imagine they will have to play a certain way because of the conditions and that should suit Adam's style,” said Poyet, ahead of this afternoon's game with a Hull City side managed by former Sunderland boss, Steve Bruce.
“ A lot will depend on what players are there, and what kind of form they are in. Will influential players like (Steven) Gerrard and (Frank) Lampard be there? That could affect Adam's chances.
“But if they play the way they will probably have to, I think Adam can do well. There will be moments where the game is flat and the tempo drops away, and that is where you need somebody to make something happen.
“That spark is what we were missing a few months ago, but it is what Adam has provided for us. He has helped the whole thing come together. You need players to make a difference, and he is one of the ones that has done that the most.”
Johnson's last cap came in a friendly win over Italy prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, but Walcott's absence has created an opportunity for an attacking wide player to make a late push for a place in the World Cup squad.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain highlighted his credentials with a brace in Arsenal's win over Crystal Palace last weekend, while Southampton's Adam Lallana has been in impressive form for the majority of the season.
Johnson's candidature has gathered momentum thanks to his form since Christmas, but Poyet accepts the winger still has to prove he can maintain such standards for a prolonged period of time.
“I don't think any manager from a national team is going to rely on a player who has had one good month,” he said. “We need to be saying the same things about Adam come June, and if we do that, we will have a good player.
“We will have a player who you know is going to do something good if he is taken to the World Cup. Of course he's going to have bad games, but the idea is that you know what you are going to get from him when he performs.”
It is only two months ago that Johnson found himself dropped to the bench in the wake of a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, with Poyet admitting he was struggling to come up with a system that made the most of the former Middlesbrough academy product's assets.
Benched for five league games in a row, Johnson came back with a bang as he scored a hat-trick in last month's 4-1 win at Fulham, and his response to his temporary demotion revealed both a high degree of commitment and powerful sense of character.
“I have no doubt that when you are dropped, you ask yourself why,” said Poyet. “You hope there will be a reaction and the player will think about it, but the most important thing is that they do not give up.
“Some players, you change things, and a month later they give up because they think they are finished or that they want to go and put in a transfer request. Those reactions show you who you are. Credit it to Adam that he did nothing like that.”
Lee Cattermole is faced with the same dilemma now, and Poyet will be hoping Johnson's fellow midfielder displays similar stoicism as he reflects on the events of transfer deadline day, which saw him almost join Stoke City after Sunderland signed Liam Bridcutt.
Cattermole is available after injury today, but is expected to be named on the bench as Bridcutt reprises the holding midfield role he performed so effectively in last weekend's win over Newcastle.
Steven Fletcher is nursing an Achilles injury, but Poyet remains hopeful the striker will be available for next month's Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.
“It's going to be a couple of weeks, and we need to make sure we use these two weeks the best we can to try to get him back for Arsenal (on February 22),” he said. “If not for Arsenal, then we need to make sure he's 100 per cent for the Cup final.”