Sunderland winger Johnson not surprised at central role for ex-Boro team-mate Downing

Adam Johnson in action for Sunderland at The Stadium of Light against Chelsea. Picture by FRANK REID

Adam Johnson in action for Sunderland at The Stadium of Light against Chelsea. Picture by FRANK REID

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THE DOWNING scale was a barometer that Adam Johnson was measured on for the first five years of his professional career.

It was inevitable.

After emerging through Middlesbrough’s academy on the coat-tails of Stewart Downing, there were always going to be constant comparisons between Johnson’s fellow left-footed winger.

Until Downing left the Riverside to join Aston Villa in the summer of 2009, the debate on Teesside seemed to revolve around which of the two widemen was better and whether they could be deployed in the same team.

At that stage, Johnson had yet to develop into the effective right-sided winger that he became at Manchester City.

It was a straight shoot-out on the left flank between the duo and Downing was predominantly the victor.

Not so anymore. Johnson has played the bulk of his football at the Stadium of Light on the right, while ex-Sunderland loanee Downing has found a new lease of life in a central role at West Ham this season.

“I think there’s always been parallels between me and Stewy because we were both left wingers coming through at Middlesbrough,” Johnson said.

“But we’re also different in many ways too. He prefers it on the left, whereas I prefer it on the right.

“His game was always about getting down the line and putting crosses in, whereas I like to come inside and play.

“But he’s changed his game now he’s playing in central midfield.

“It was something he did a couple of times for Middlesbrough as a young lad and we always said even then that we could see him playing there in the future.

“He has all the attributes – he’s quick and he’s powerful.”

Downing has been at the heart of a remarkable start to the campaign from the fourth-placed Hammers after boss Sam Allardyce’s position had been under severe scrutiny during the summer.

But Johnson, for one, has not been taken aback by West Ham’s lofty league position after Allardyce’s men made it three wins on the spin with a 3-1 victory over Swansea last weekend.

Johnson said: “No, West Ham haven’t been a surprise. They’ve got very good players and they’ve had a few wins which has given them massive confidence and momentum.

“When you’ve got confidence in the team, you can go anywhere.

“(Carroll and Downing) are two very good players. I obviously know Stewy and he’s having a great season and he’s earned his chance with England.

“And I think it’s only a matter of time before big Andy gets in there because he’s different to anything else we’ve got.”

While West Ham can’t stop winning, Sunderland can’t stop drawing after a third stalemate in four games last weekend.

“Yeah, it’s as simple as turning draws into wins,” added Johnson.

“Our last few draws (against Chelsea and Liverpool) I don’t think anyone was expecting us to get.

“But it’s the games against teams like Leicester that we definitely want to be turning into wins.

“The Chelsea one was obviously against a difficult team to play against, but we could have nicked it.

“So maybe that and the Liverpool one were fair 0-0s, but the teams like Leicester are the ones we have to win.”

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