ADAM JOHNSON and Jack Rodwell will react professionally to being the latest high-profile Sunderland players to be axed, believes Gus Poyet.
The Sunderland boss made two surprise omissions from his starting line-up to face Stoke City on Saturday after former Manchester City pair Johnson and Rodwell were both relegated to the bench.
But Poyet’s selection paid off, with Johnson’s replacement Steven Fletcher netting a brace to help Sunderland to their maiden Premier League victory of the campaign – three weeks after being left out of the matchday squad entirely.
The Uruguayan is confident that Johnson and Rodwell – who together cost Sunderland more than £20million – will follow in Fletcher’s footsteps by taking their omission in the right manner.
“I think Jonno has been unlucky really,” said Poyet.
“He has been giving us so much for long periods and I’ve been dropping him in the best moments of the game – the last 20 when everyone is tired.
“On Saturday, I was thinking he’s going to be fresh for that period, but we didn’t have the ball.
“He had to run and run and run!
“But they know their role, it’s clear.
“I just want them to be professional – not be happy, but accept my decision because that’s what I’m here for.
“We were asking Jack certain things that he was doing well.
“But we needed something different on Saturday, controlling things a little bit more. Things that happened.”
Both Johnson and Rodwell were introduced from the bench in the second half against the Potters and having that option available was not lost on Poyet.
He said: “I don’t remember the quality of Johnson and Jack Rodwell on the bench last year. I was looking at them confidently that they would give us something special.
“We needed legs.
“I had the feeling that we were running out of petrol and we needed to press in midfield.
“Sometimes you need to win the game by running and being stronger than the opposition. That was the idea with Liam (Bridcutt) and Jack.
“They worked it out, which was great.
“The idea was that we were dropping and going backwards. We needed more energy in the middle of the park.”
Poyet understands why many supporters would have raised an eyebrow at his team selection after Sunderland had performed well against Swansea seven days earlier, without managing to find a breakthrough.
But he says he needed to introduce more firepower into the Wearsiders’ ranks, with strike pair Fletcher and Connor Wickham both opening their accounts in the Premier League this season.
“I’m sure a few were surprised by the decision,” he added.
“But the idea was to look for that partnership or that striker that is going to give us double figures.
“Without that, you have no chance.
“You can be organised, a passing team or physical, but if somebody doesn’t put the ball in the net, the rest doesn’t count.
“That was probably the difference on Saturday.
“Without creating an incredible number of chances, we scored three which is more than decent in the Premier League.”