Sunderland now have to move on from the furore surrounding former player Adam Johnson’s sex offence convictions, insists Sam Allardyce.
A stoppage time equaliser denied Sunderland victory at Southampton on Saturday at the end of a fraught week which saw the spotlight of the international media on the club after Johnson was found guilty of sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at Bradford Crown Court, having previously admitted one similar charge, plus another count of grooming.
Inevitably, Sunderland’s players have been stunned by Johnson’s offences and impending imprisonment, yet there was no sign of that on the pitch at St Mary’s after the Black Cats were just 90 seconds away from what would have been a huge victory.
And with the club still in the thick of a battle to remain in the Premier League, manager Allardyce says there has to be an element of closure over Johnson’s downfall to focus on the objective of avoiding relegation. Allardyce said: “We have to be professional. That’s outside of our control.
“We really have to put that behind us as a football club, certainly me in charge of the football side of it.
“I think the players have done that already.
“We’ve got to focus on what we have to do and make everybody happy come the last game of the season in May.”
While Allardyce is concentrating on Premier League survival, questions continue to be raised over the club’s off-the-field conduct during the Johnson affair and whether the 28-year-old should have been allowed to continue playing.
Sunderland chairman Ellis Short was at Southampton to watch the Black Cats in action.
However, under-fire Margaret Byrne was notably absent, with the silence continuing from the chief executive over claims during Johnson’s trial that she was well-aware of the player’s admissions in police interview and communications with the victim.
Byrne is understood to have spent last week in Portugal, but is now believed to have returned to the UK.