GUS POYET believes that Sunderland have finally found the way to unlock Adam Johnson’s vast potential.
And he believes the 26-year-old can regain his England form if the Black Cats continue to play to his strengths and Johnson seizes his opportunity.
After watching the £10million former Manchester City winger grab the first Premier League hat-trick of his career, he said: “The way the team has been playing recently, it has the characteristics of a team that suits Adam.
“He needs to play for a team that keeps the ball and passes to him at the right time to break on the opposition.
“This is important, because one system does not suit all the players.
“This one does suit him – we have started passing it more and we have played better, which has allowed Johnno the freedom to perform.
“We have tried all sorts of different things with him – we have tried him on the left, on the right, off the bench.
“But the key is that the team has started to play better and that has given him the platform – that and the fact we’ve been getting the ball to him where he is in a position to damage the opposition.
“It has been great to see him taking his chance.
“The Adam Johnson I saw against Fulham is the one I like and love and the one I want to see every week.”
The winger celebrated his opening goal with such relish that he angered the home fans, but Poyet said it was a sign of the player releasing tension.
“He’s shown character,” the head coach said. “And I like that.
“It has been tough for him. He has wanted to be the difference since he came to Sunderland, but, for one reason or another, it has not worked.
“It is easy to criticise and that is natural. But for the person, the player and their family, it is sad so he was desperate to do something special and he has done on this occasion.”
Now the challenge for Johnson is to sustain the form which has had people talking of him making a late push for Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
“Why not?” said Poyet. “He’s a good age now for a player – an age where there are no excuses.
“You have experience, but you are still at your peak physically – so I hope he does make the England squad because, if he does, I know that it will mean we have stayed up!”