Sunderland’s Di Canio: Much more to come from AJ

Sunderland's Adam Johnson.
Sunderland's Adam Johnson.
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PAOLO Di Canio believes he can help Adam Johnson fulfil his outstanding potential at Sunderland.

The new Black Cats boss was delighted with the winger’s contribution in last Sunday’s derby triumph at Newcastle, and now wants to bring the very best out of the former Manchester City and England man.

Di Canio told the Echo: “In my opinion, we can improve Adam by 50 per cent – I think he can be much better than he has been.

“We will help him to show his quality more than in the past and I am excited about that.

“Obviously you can’t change everything in two weeks but already it has been enough to help us win a game.”

Johnson’s form has been one of the biggest disappointments of Sunderland’s 2012-13 campaign.

The Easington-born wideman moved to the Stadium of Light last summer in a £10m move from Premier League champions Manchester City and his arrival, along with that of £12m striker Steven Fletcher was expected to be the catalyst for a solid push towards the Premier League top 10.

It would be harsh to call him a flop – the 25-year-old can point to the fact that he has now scored five goals this term, put in more crosses than any other Sunderland player and has a good record for assists.

But he has often been peripheral in games, and Di Canio is convinced he can change that around and make Johnson into the shining star Sunderland fans originally hoped to see.

The work the Italian has done in terms of the side’s organisation has undoubtedly benefited the winger and the new head coach is working hard to make sure Johnson gets the ball in good areas and that his team-mates provide the best possible support.

“Adam was good at Newcastle and credit has to go to him because change is always difficult,” Di Canio reflected.

“Probably he wasn’t that happy before, because he didn’t really deliver what people expected here.

“But now he has no more excuses – different habits, different regime – and now of course, something has to come from him.

“I have nothing wrong to say about the previous manager but sometimes – you know footballers – they will say that this didn’t happen, or that didn’t happen. I’m not interested so much in that.

“I am interested in getting the best possible out of these players and I believe that for Adam this is just the beginning.

“We can get so much more out of him and you saw with the goal at the weekend, the sort of quality he is capable of.”