MARTIN O’Neill has backed Adam Johnson to become an England regular – despite the Sunderland star’s omission from the side facing Sweden this evening.
Roy Hodgson has taken an experimental side to Scandinavia for tonight’s game, with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha vying for the Sunderland winger’s usual position.
But the Black Cats boss believes that Johnson is rising to the challenge now of showing how good he can be.
O’Neill told the Echo: “I firmly believe he is a player who will come good again and regain the sort of form that got him into the England squad in the first place.
“It has been a difficult time for him.
“Steven Fletcher has settled in well and got himself a few goals but Adam has found it harder.
“He got the injury while away with England but that is not causing him any problem whatsoever now at the moment. To get him off and running immediately would have been fantastic for us.
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“But it doesn’t mean you discard him just because he hasn’t set the world alight just at this minute. Certainly when he does, it will be good for the team.”
O’Neill’s confidence was vindicated at the weekend with Johnson’s best performance so far in a Sunderland shirt, capped with a debut goal in red and white.
The manager believes that as well as overcoming the injury, Johnson is gradually coming to terms with playing full games.
He said: “I do think it is worth bearing in mind that Adam is having to acclimatise himself to a different situation here compared to his previous club.
“For the last couple of years at Man City he has spent an awful lot of his time being used as an impact substitute coming on late in games.
“Here, he is being asked to play the full 90 minutes week-in, week-out.
“Over the course of time he’ll get back into the groove of doing and will be all the better for it.
“But at the moment he has been getting through a period of adjustment and we’ve just had to bear with it.
“Soon, though, I’m sure we’ll see Adam getting back to the sort of form which originally got him into England squads in the first place.”