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Johnson happy to be back home
AFTER two-and-a-half years at Manchester City, Adam Johnson has returned to the North-East and is ready to feel loved again – at Sunderland.
His time at the Etihad Stadium has earned a Premier League title, an FA Cup winners’ medal as well as a Community Shield gong, but Johnson was not satisfied with that.
Had he outlined a desire to stay at City, he could have stayed. Truth be told, Roberto Mancini never really wanted him to leave as he viewed him as a valued member of his squad and wanted him in his ranks.
But Johnson was not content to be an impact substitute for the mega-rich Premier League champions for a second year in a row. The 25- year-old from Easington , smarting from being left out of the England squad for Euro 2012, just wanted to play football.
At Sunderland he should be assured of a regular slot on the wing. Martin O’Neill has, already, convinced him that at the Stadium of Light his talent will adored and relied on.
“You want to win trophies and medals as a player, but sometimes you’ve got to be playing and enjoy playing football,” said Johnson. “Coming here, I can enjoy it again.
When you’re getting dropped and things, all the disappointments, not knowing if you’re going to play or be sat in the stands, that was a major factor in coming here – playing football and getting back to enjoying it.”
Mancini was often critical of Johnson’s defensive side of the game. Last season’s game at Sunderland saw the Italian ranting at him for not tracking back enough. Yet he thinks his time under Mancini will make him a better player.
Johnson said: “I think all the lads there would say that (Mancini could be over critical).
That is how he was with certain players, the other players couldn’t say anything to him.
“It was obviously difficult, but he demanded the best from his players and that will stand me in good stead coming here. It has progressed me as a player.
“It’s always nice to be praised as well as criticised.
You can only take so much criticism and no praise as a player, it doesn’t matter who you are.
“I’m sure the gaffer will tell me when I’ve done something wrong here, but you have to have that balance. Since I’ve signed he’s been brilliant with me.”
Asked the best bit of advice Mancini offered and the last time the pair spoke, Johnson revealed: “At the Southampton game when I was left out.
We had a chat, he understood I wanted to play football and he said if we can get a good solution we’ll let you go. That’s probably the best bit of advice he gave me ... ’’ Officially the deal which has taken Johnson to Sunderland is undisclosed, although it is thought it could eventually be worth more than £14m depending on add-ons – that could make him the club’s record buy.
For that sort of money it is clear just how much O’Neill appreciates his talent. Johnson said: “That was a massive reason for the decision to come here. As soon as I spoke to Martin he made me feel wanted. He gave me confidence, he’s a manager I can have a good relationship with.”
There were other clubs interested, but after chatting with O’Neill he realised it was time to return closer to his roots, where his parents still live.
“The last few weeks, I’ve done a lot of thinking. It was one of the biggest decisions of my life,” said Johnson, who made 97 appearances for City after his £8m move from Middlesbrough in January 2010.
“Obviously it’s difficult when you’re at the champions, you don’t know where to go.
“I’m delighted I’ve made the decision to come here and hopefully it’ll make me a better player.
“There were a few other things [options] but he [O’Neill] showed he wanted me the most and that meant a lot. He tried really hard and made the effort and things.
That was a major factor. He wants to push the club forward, he doesn’t want to be a mid-table team.”
The move to Wearside appears to have helped his England chances. After missing out on the Euros, he has followed up his impressive performance in the friendly with Italy this month by being named in yesterday’s squad to face Moldova and Ukraine.
“It was difficult to be left out in the summer, it was tough,” he said. “I missed out on the World Cup as well and that was tough too. I just want to get my head down, that’s gone now and hopefully I’ll get the chance again.
“I can refocus. I’ve had some setbacks, but they make you stronger and make you want to do better. Hopefully I’ll be going to the World Cup in Brazil.”