ENGLAND’S plane landed in Brazil for the World Cup finals, yesterday with Sunderland’s Adam Johnson still a little baffled as to why he wasn’t on it.
The former Manchester City winger (pictured) believes he has played the best football of his career since the turn of the year, when he won the Barclays Premier League Player of the Year award for January.
England boss Roy Hodgson came to see Johnson in February when Sunderland took on Hull at the Stadium of Light, but Wes Brown was sent off early in the game and Hodgson never got to the see the best of the winger.
Johnson, though, felt it was a little surprising that he was overlooked when he has played worse and been selected.
He has 11 senior caps to his name – his first picked up within days of joining money-bags Manchester City from boyhood club Middlesbrough and his last came just a few months before he joined Sunderland.
The Easington-born winger believes he has played better in 2014 than he did with either of his previous clubs.
“On the whole, since the new gaffer came in, I’ve been happy with my form,” he told the Echo.
“It was then that I started scoring a few goals and getting back to my best form and from January onwards is probably the best I’ve played in my career.
“Everyone would be saying that I was playing really well at City when I was getting into England squads. But, personally, I think this is the best spell I’ve had as a footballer.”
Johnson is laidback about being overlooked for England selection and is happy that his game has come together for Sunderland, praising boss Gus Poyet’s influence.
“I think it’s the freedom I’ve been given; expressing myself, playing my normal game and not having to worry about playing right-back, which brought the best out in me,” he said.
“Or not getting the ball on halfway and having to run 60 yards.
“It’s all those little things.
“You ask any attacker and the last thing you want to be doing is running 60 yards before you get anywhere near the goal.
“I think the improvement in me since the turn of the year was just down to that, really.”
Johnson said before the end of last season that he was happy to stay at Sunderland even if the club was relegated.
But that has not stopped him being the subject of transfer rumours in recent days, with Hull City and Everton being linked with potential season-long loan deals.
Sunderland would not be interested in loaning the attacker out.
But the very fact that a loan is being talked about has raised the prospect that the Black Cats are testing the water to see if any of their Premier League rivals would like to buy him permanently.
Johnson was a £10million signing made by Martin O’Neill in August 2012 and is on top dollar at the club.
It’s a possibility that Poyet might be looking to sell the winger to raise funds from the sale and saved wages to bring in other transfer targets.
But, for the moment, Johnson remains very much a Sunderland player and one who is planning to have the best campaign of his career next season in Poyet’s remodelled squad.