Lee Johnson reacts to the potential return of Sunderland fans and maximising it for the play-off push

Lee Johnson says Sunderland will look to maximise the impact if supporters are able to return to the Stadium of Light for the play-off semi finals.

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 6:00 am

The EFL are hoping that the government will move ahead with the next stage of the roadmap for leaving lockdown as planned, allowing attendances of up to 10,000.

Sunderland are therefore at this stage still unsure whether they will be able to admit fans, but the indications are positive.

Johnson said it would be 'absolutely huge' to manage the club in front of their supporters for the first time.

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Sunderland hope to have fans back at the Stadium of Light for the play-off semi finals

Though there will of course be strict protocols in place should supporters return, but the head coach wants to ensure their presence is felt as much as possible.

"That could be absolutely huge and to be honest it's the thing that probably excites me most about the play offs, having that buzz again," he said.

"I think I'd literally cry if someone said that we can't have fans in for the play-offs.

"The fanbase here something that was a big part of my decision to come to the football club.

"When I came here as Bristol City manager I probably didn't see it. Cold, windy, we won 2-1.

"One of the big things I wanted really was to come to Sunderland and experience that atmosphere I'd heard about.

"I think that will be a consideration as well as to where we place fans. I'm just talking off-hand here, obviously, but I wouldn't want people spread all over the gaff in their normal seats.

"You'd want to try and condense it so you can feel that passion and that power as close to the pitch as possible.

"Any ideas that can help us I'm open to.

"That almost becomes part of the tactical thinking depending on what is allowed and of course we want to make sure that the fans who do come in, they're super vocal and I'm sure they've had enough time off to warm up those vocal chords to really get us going."

Sunderland are lookign to take three points against Northampton Town on Sunday, thus strengthening their chances of securing a home tie for the second leg of the semi final.

Johnson says even away from home, though, the return of fans would be a positive.

"Even going to the away game where we potentially won't have any our fans, that feeling of the gladiator's arena, us against the world, let's go and do the business," he said.

"You've got to embrace that.

"We've all got one goal and that's to go and drive the club forward."

Johnson hopes to have Conor McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan fit for the semi finals, but admits he is closely monitoring their progress on a daily basis.

"Those two are the ones I'm probably studying more than anyone else” he said.

“The way they hinge in their movement, their sharpness, their footwork, lung capacity.

“It's definitely something that I'm looking at and watching day by day.”

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