ADAM JOHNSON has defended his record in a Sunderland shirt this season – but acknowledges there is room for improvement.
The £10m summer signing from Premier League champions Manchester City arrived on Wearside with a huge amount of expectation resting on his shoulders.
Many thought the arrival of the Easington-born England winger, coupled with the £12m purchase of Steven Fletcher, would see Sunderland establish themselves as a recognised top 10 Premier League side.
But the Black Cats have fallen well short of expectations and while 11-goal Fletcher has won the approval of supporters, Johnson has become a target of criticism from the terraces.
Sunderland supporters feel he is too peripheral a figure in games and is failing to contribute enough.
But Johnson told the Echo: “I know that fans aren’t happy, but I have scored four goals this season. I’ve put in more crosses than anyone else and I’ve had assists for 11 goals too.
“Those are the stats I prefer to concentrate on, because they help give you confidence.
“The people who are ahead of me on the assists list are mainly at the top five clubs.
“They are the likes of Juan Mata, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie – so that’s not bad company to be in – and I’m the only player in that group who is in the bottom half of the table.
“Obviously, people don’t really see that, or look at those sort of things.
“That’s what I have to focus on though because it is important you keep your self-belief if you want to contribute to the side.”
Johnson accepts, though, there have been many occasions this season where he has not performed as well as he might have done and hopes that, with better service to him in the final eight games of the season, he can produce better service to his strikers.
“I still look at things and know I could have done better myself,” he said. “I could have set up more goals with better crosses or finished better and I do think I could improve my general play too.
“I know wingers are all about delivery into the box but my overall play is something I’m also looking at.
“I have to say, though, that I’m reasonably satisfied with the stats against my name because they don’t lie and I’ve been involved in a lot of the build-up to the goals.
“It would be better for me to receive the ball quicker and higher up the pitch, because it is tough for wingers to do damage when they have to go on a 60-yard run towards goal.
“But I’m not going to criticise the team because it’s up to me to make that happen as well. You have to look at yourself first in this game.
“The manager was a winger himself, though, and he sees those issues and he will look to address them.”