It’s not a path that many footballers choose to travel but leaving the champions of England and returning home to the North East is something that suited Adam Johnson down to a tee. His bit part role at Manchester City certainly illustrated his immense talent but it also stunted his progression due to a lack of regular football.
Thankfully any fears over the winger becoming the latest home grown talent to fall fowl of a big money move have been put to bed thanks to Martin O’Neill’s inspired summer recruitment efforts and his £10m signing has become an instant fans favourite at the Stadium of Light despite hardly featuring for his new side this season.
As a local lad with red and white connections, his signature had been coveted by the Black Cats ever since his rise to prominence with rivals Middlesbrough and his protracted arrival via the Etihad Stadium has certainly excited supporters. Football FanCast’s Alex Churcher caught up with Adam, promoting the new Medal of Honor Warfighter, about settling in at Sunderland, playing for the national team and the upcoming North East derbies against Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
Hi Adam, so tell us a bit about the event you’re currently attending. Are you any good at Medal of Honor?!
I am here promoting the new Medal of Honor game, I’ve been having a few goes but it’s hard to get me off it! I’ve been having a good day and having some banter with a couple of lads. This is the new one but I used to play the one before that, it gets quite addictive and my girlfriend kills me for being on the computer the whole time! I really enjoy the shooting games because I’m not that good at the football ones strangely enough!
From one battlefield to another, how are you settling in at Sunderland?
Yeah I’ve settled in pretty quick, obviously it’s like being back home for me. All the family are here so it’s been pretty easy for me. It wasn’t like changing clubs because it’s sort of like coming home.
Since you’re a local lad, you must be looking forward to your first Tyne-Wear derby in a few weeks?
It’s all that gets talked about up in the North East and obviously if I’m lucky enough to play in the one in a couple of weeks, it’s going to be a massive occasion. I’m really excited about it, I’ve heard the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable and for me these are the sort of games you want to play in as player.
Funnily enough because you grew up in the region fans have heard differing rumours about your boyhood allegiances. Is the Johnson family split or do you all support Sunderland?!
Well now that I’m a Sunderland player, they’re the only results that matter to me but I was sort of split as kid growing up. I came through the ranks at Middlesbrough and I played for Newcastle between the age of 9 and 11 years old during the Ginola and Asprilla era. Still my family are all Sunderland fans and the first game I went to was a Sunderland game so there’s enough support between everyone!
There’s a tough match against Manchester City first, are you looking forward to returning to the Etihad Stadium this weekend?
Yeah, I’m looking forward to going back, it’s going to be a tough game but I think its nice going back to an old club and seeing old faces and friends so I’m really looking forward to it. I keep in touch with most of the lads, a lot of my closest friends are still there and we went through a lot growing up, winning the league and playing for England together.
Any incentive to prove Roberto Mancini wrong for selling you?!
Well I don’t know about proving him wrong or anything but I want to do well and play well for Sunderland. I don’t think I need to prove anything, Mancini would honestly say I did well for him, we had a chat and he understood I wanted to play regularly which was great so there were no hard feelings.
Good to know you’re looking forward to the game, how’s the thigh injury coming along?
Yeah it’s almost there now, I was bit frustrated over recent weeks not being able to play and it wasn’t really improving but it seems to be getting better now. I played on Saturday and I felt good, a bit unfit and lacking match sharpness, but it’s good to be back after a frustrating start.
Congrats on making it into the England squad. Are you looking forward to the qualifiers or are you cautious about suffering a recurrence of your injury given what happened last time?
Obviously I love playing for England. I had to drop out of the squad for the last International through my injury so I was gutted about that but it’s nice to be back in and get back involved straight away. I’m excited to meet up with the England lads and hopefully get another couple of caps.
Back to domestic action now and it’s been hard to assess Sunderland’s season so far. Some fans have been concerned by the lack of goals while others are happy the side is still unbeaten and looking solid defensively, how do you rate the team’s start?
Well it’s always good to be unbeaten no matter what level you’re playing at because it brings confidence to the team, I don’t mind if we’re not scoring goals as long as we’re winning. Winning 1-0 and being solid at the back is good but I think a few more goals will come as the team comes together and gels a bit more. If you look at our fixtures we’ve had a couple of tough games against Liverpool and Arsenal so I think it’s a good start for us.
Given the competition in the Premier League, what do you think are realistic ambitions for Sunderland this season?
I’m not too sure to be honest! I think it’s difficult to say and it’ll be few months down the line before you find out who’s going to be whereabouts. Then you can have a look and see where you can push to but I think a top 10 finish is something Sunderland should definitely be looking at. Hopefully then we can see where we can go from there.
Perhaps a Cup run then?! Are you looking forward to facing another of your old teams Middlesbrough soon?
Yes it’s another great game I’ve got to look forward to, I’ve got some really good games coming up for me and it’s nice to play against the side where it all started as not many players get the sort of chance they gave me.
I suppose you and Lee Cattermole must be excited about it then?
Yes we are to be honest, we were having a bit of banter about it the other day and we’re looking forward to playing our old team as we still have old friends there and people who we grew up with so it’s going to be a good day for us.
Finally, since you’re promoting Medal of Honor, does the team play much and who would win out of you and the lads?!
Well I’m going to be getting a few copies for them so we’ll probably be playing online against each other. I’m not sure who’s actually any good but Fletcher thinks he’s good on the computer so he might be a dark horse!
Adam Johnson was having a first look at Medal of Honor Warfighter, in which gamers can go head-to-head with the world’s best special forces. Medal of Honor Warfighter is on sale from 26th October on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. For more information and to pre-order, visit uk.medalofhonor.com.