‘it’s been great for me’

Sunderland’s excellent recent run has coincided with Adam Johnson rediscovering the kind of form which prompted Manchester City to make a bid for him and the Black Cats to invest GBP10million for his services. By Damian Spellman.

Derby hero Adam Johnson insists he never doubted that Sunderland have what it takes to drag themselves out of relegation trouble.

The 26-year-old England winger scored his seventh goal in as many games recently as the Black Cats romped to a 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James’ Park for the second successive season to maintain a two-point gap to the drop zone despite precious wins for Cardiff, West Ham and Stoke.

Sunderland have now won the last three derbies, something they had not done since 1923, and perhaps more importantly, secured back-to-back league wins for the first time since April last year when then manager Paolo Di Canio inspired something of a false dawn.

But under Gus Poyet, the Capital One Cup finalists are showing genuine signs of hauling themselves away from danger, and that is something Johnson always expected them to do even during the depths of their difficulties.

He said: “Even a couple of months ago, we were written off. We were seven points adrift and I was saying to everyone, if you saw the fixtures we had at home, we had played all the top teams.

“I said our time would come, and it has.”

Johnson played his part in Sunderland’s opening goal when Vurnon Anita tripped Phil Bardsley as the pair chased his intelligent 19th-minute ball into the penalty area and referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.

Fabio Borini, the man whose late strike had beaten Newcastle at the Stadium of Light in October last year, dispatched the penalty high to keeper Tim Krul’s right and from that point on, there was little doubt about the outcome.

Johnson himself doubled the lead within four minutes after Krul could only parry Jack Colback’s shot, and although the Magpies rallied after the break, the England winger curled a shot against the foot of the post before Colback cemented the points with a third 10 minutes from time.

Sunderland’s excellent recent run — they have now lost just twice in 14 games in all competitions — has coincided with Johnson rediscovering the kind of form which prompted Manchester City to make a bid for him and the Black Cats to invest GBP10million for his services.

Indeed, such has been his contribution that he is now being talked about once again as a candidate for Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.

However, he has put his renaissance down as much to the contribution of the men around him as his own efforts.

He said: “Personally, it’s been great for me as well. But for me to play well personally, the team has got to be playing well, any individual will tell you that.

“You can't come shining through a team that isn’t playing well, it’s impossible.”

That is a view backed up by Poyet, who has helped to take some of the responsibility off Johnson.

The Uruguayan said: "The game is not just about passing the ball, it is about doing the basics all the time and, in the beginning, we were not doing it but now they are confident they can do that all the time so, whatever team we pick, everyone knows what to do.

"An example is Adam Johnson. For some reason at this club we were giving him the responsibility of doing everything, thinking: ‘You come from Man City so give him the ball, let him take on 10 players and score every game’ but it doesn’t work like that.

“We have to play in a way to help Adam and he is doing it every week. It is a bit of responsibility for Adam and a bit for the team.”

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