No sooner had Sunderland spent big money to bring in striker Steven Fletcher from Wolverhampton Wanderers, than they did it again to sign someone to improve the supply he can expect at the Stadium of Light. Manchester City and England winger Adam Johnson has become Martin O’Neill’s latest signing for the Premier League club and adds to their strength on the flanks – a classic O’Neill feature, of course. Sebastian Larsson and James McClean have some sturdy new competition.
With those wing players providing the service for Fletcher and Louis Saha, Sunderland’s attacking potency has undoubtedly been improved – and he likes to score a goal or two himself. The undisclosed fee is likely to be a relatively large one, representing solid business for City. Johnson has contributed in fits and starts, but was clearly surplus to requirements as they look to improve on their first title since 1968 with a meaningful assault on the UEFA Champions League.
Johnson arguably represents the first of City’s Chelsea-style stockpiled players to fall short. Like Scott Parker and Damien Duff at Stamford Bridge, Johnson was a part of City’s rounding up of domestic players but never really established himself in the first team. As a result, his next move may technically be a step down but it’s a real positive for the player himself. The move to Sunderland is an opportunity to play far more regularly and begin to really fulfil the admittedly lofty expectations upon his shoulders. He certainly has the ability, but City’s concerns about his lifestyle and application are still fresh in the memory.
Nevertheless, this is a transfer that should please all parties. Sunderland have snared themselves a fantastic player with a big future, while City have shed the wages and squad place taken up by a player that Roberto Mancini probably wasn’t going to use much this season. For Johnson, a chance to move back home – he was born in Easington, and moved from Newcastle United to Middlesbrough as a youngster before making his name at the Riverside – combined with the conversations he had with O’Neill made it an irresistible move.
Most importantly for England supporters, playing 90 minutes each week should bring the best out of one of our most exciting players. Johnson’s England career to date has been intermittent; despite making his debut in 2010 he has picked up just 11 caps and was left out of both Fabio Capello’s FIFA World Cup 2010 squad and Roy Hodgson’s selection for UEFA Euro 2012, for which he was on the standby list. First team club football, it seems, is still important to the England manager. Hodgson could be yet another winner from this deal.
(Photo: vagueonthehow via Flickr)