SUNDERLAND have to give in-form Adam Johnson a helping hand in the final third, admits Gus Poyet.
Johnson was one of the few positives to emerge from Sunderland’s dismal display in last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool, with the England international coming closest for the Black Cats with a thunderous shot against the crossbar.
The 27-year-old had netted three goals in the previous four Premier League games to become Sunderland’s top scorer this season, yet has been too often been left fighting a lone battle due to the attacking troubles of Poyet’s side.
That is a problem Sunderland are desperately trying to address in the January transfer window, with MLS side Toronto proposing a swap deal involving Jermaine Defoe and Black Cats frontman Altidore.
But Poyet knows Sunderland must give more support to Johnson, who was taken off for the final five minutes against Liverpool due to fatigue after becoming a father last week.
“Sometimes we are a bit unfair with him (Johnson) and give him all the responsibility,” said Poyet.
“We need to share the responsibilities to go forward and create something.
“Someone needs to stand up, not always Adam Johnson.
“He was tired against Liverpool. Adam had been a father and hadn’t trained for a couple of days.
“He wanted to play, but he had to track back too much.
“It was at the point where he couldn’t go past people because he was so tired.”
Sunderland are keeping tight-lipped on the the speculation surrounding Defoe, but the Black Cats are clearly desperate for proven quality up front after netting just 18 goals in 21 Premier League outings, while there have been discussions with interested parties over a January exit for Altidore.
Reports in America emerged yesterday that New York Red Bulls were back in the running for Altidore’s signature after previous indications that they had been put off by his wage demands.
But Toronto are thought to still be the front-runners for Altidore’s signature, and need to offload Defoe, who penned a four-year deal with the Canadian club 12 months ago.
The big barrier to signing Defoe – currently training with former clubs Spurs – remains agreeing personal terms, which has scuppered the club’s previous approaches for the ex-England international when Steve Bruce was at the Sunderland helm.
Sunderland’s quest for goals will almost certainly rule out any new defenders arriving on Wearside this month, despite links with Sheffield Wednesday centre-half Tom Lees over the weekend.
It is understood that there is little substance to the reports in any case, while Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric has ruled out selling the likes of Lees and ex-Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood, who has been a big success for the Owls since moving to Hillsborough on a Boamn during the summer.
“We want to take the club forward and without Keiren or Tom it would be very difficult so I’m not interested in selling players,” said Mandaric.