O’Neill to hand Johnson his Sunderland bow against Morecambe

Adam Johnson
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ADAM Johnson WILL make his Sunderland debut in tonight’s Capital One Cup tie after boasting a fitness advantage over fellow new boy Steven Fletcher.

Johnson was not eligible for last weekend’s rained-off Premier League encounter against Reading, with his £10million move to the Stadium of Light not completed before Friday’s noon registration deadline.

But the 25-year-old is eligible for tonight’s clash with Morecambe and, despite being left out of Manchester City’s opening Premier League victory over Southampton, there are no problems with the Easington winger’s fitness after playing 90 minutes in England’s win over Italy a fortnight ago.

Fletcher, who had been included in the squad to face Reading, is also likely to feature although the £12m frontman is still short of fitness after featuring just once for Wolves during pre-season due to a minor ankle problem.

Manager Martin O’Neill said: “With Adam playing for England, his fitness is fine and a lot more advanced than Steven Fletcher. Adam wanted to get things sorted on Friday, but the timing for Reading just beat us.

“But I think for him (tonight) would be a great opportunity. He will be playing.

“Fletcher gives us a bit of a new dimension.

“I would love to promise that we will score a lot more goals with the two in the team, but I do get the impression that we will create more chances.

“Johnson is a very exciting player. He just needs more encouragement to keep going.

“He is the type of player I love. Someone who takes opponents on. I used to do it myself without great success!!”

Sunderland had been expecting a crowd of around 40,000 before the Reading clash was called off. And there is likely to be a healthy attendance tonight, too, with Johnson and Fletcher in line to make their first appearances in red and white.

O’Neill added: “I would never want to encourage or forcefully tell people to turn up. It is a costly business these days.

“But some of our fans are really excited about Adam Johnson coming to this football club. And I am sure they will come and support him. But, over the course of the season, they will have plenty opportunities to see what we are getting.”