MARTIN O’Neill has warned fans not to expect Adam Johnson to solve all of Sunderland’s creative problems single-handedly this season.
The England winger is likely to be in Roy Hodgson’s plans at Wembley tonight as the national team looks to attack, attack, attack and plunder goals against minnows San Marino.
But whatever skills and eye for goal Johnson might showcase this evening, O’Neill is wary of the weight of expectation placed on a player who has just arrived on Wearside – regardless of that arrival being from the Premier League champions in a £10m deal.
He said: “I’m just a little concerned that people might be expecting him to come in and be winning every game for us because that’s certainly not going to be the case.
“He’s a real talent and I know he’s going to be a great asset to this club. But he’s only one player and it’s a team game.”
O’Neill was speaking in the wake of Sunderland’s poor start to the season in terms of carving out clear goal-scoring opportunities. No team has had fewer shots on goal or fewer touches in the opposition penalty area than Sunderland this season.
And many fans have linked that lack of creativity with Johnson’s absence – the 25-year-old having picked up a thigh injury during his last stint away on England duty.
The new signing gave everyone a flash of what he was capable of with a man-of-the-match performance on debut in August when he sparkled in the Capital One Cup game which saw Morecambe despatched.
He made an impact in the Premier League game against Swansea which followed but then came the injury followed by an appearance as a late substitute against the MK Dons and then two games, against Wigan and Manchester City, in which he has found the going tough.
O’Neill believes that Johnson will prove his class to Sunderland fans this season and remains absolutely thrilled to have got an England winger still on the upward trajectory in his career.
But he says Sunderland are about far more than Johnson.
“Creatively, we have to be better and he has a part to play in that but then so do other players,” he said. “It’s about everyone taking responsibility and working hard to make things happen.
“We’ve made a solid start to the season and I’m not unhappy with it.
“Defensively we’ve been solid but we need to be more effective in the final third and that’s what we’re all working on.
“It’s still the start of the season though and I know the squad will continue to improve as it progresses.”