ADAM JOHNSON last night insisted he was happy to live with the burden of being one of the players Sunderland will rely upon to save their season.
The £10m August signing scored his first goal for the club in the defeat at Everton on Saturday, when he produced a performance more akin to that of a player many believe is England’s best natural winger when on top form.
The Easington-born 25-year-old moved to Sunderland from Manchester City, where he was only a bit-part player by the end of his time with the Premier League Champions, because he craved the responsibility which comes with being a major signing for a club in transition.
Sunderland face Fulham on Sunday at Craven Cottage and Johnson’s last two appearances beside the Thames were for City – and on both occasions he came on as a late substitute with little chance to make an impression.
This weekend is going to be very different as he will be asked to be one of his side’s on-field leaders as Sunderland look to win just their second Premier League game of the season.
Johnson said: “I like having responsibility within the team.
“That is what I had at Middlesbrough as well, but when I went to City it was a case if I didn’t do it then there were another 10 top-class players who could do it on the day, so there was no pressure on one or two individuals.
“This is why I came to Sunderland. I want that responsibility.
“I want to be a big player here and have an important involvement in matches.”
Johnson enjoyed by some distance his best game in Sunderland colours at Goodison, although the day did end with
another loss. The hope on Wearside is this was the start of something big for a player whose talent has never been in doubt.
Johnson added: “I felt more like myself on Saturday.
“I thought it was my best game I’ve had so far at Sunderland, even if there is room for improvement.
“I haven’t had a run of games like this for a good year and a half. It does take a little bit of time.
“When I first signed for City I played every week, but at the end bigger players were signed, or at least big-money players, and that happens in football.”
Johnson believes Sunderland are ready to turn around a season which began with so much hope, but has not gone to plan. He said: “We will bounce back. It’s only a matter of time.
“That was our best performance for a few weeks, so we need to look at the positives and hopefully there will be a few wins in the next few weeks.
“I thought we were very good in the first half.
“The gaffer said in his interviews after the game we could gave been 3-0 up at half-time.
“I felt good, in actual fact. That has been coming.
“The injuries when I signed set me back a bit and I also missed the whole of pre-season at City.
“My fitness is getting there now and I’m sure my form will follow.
“We are a close group. The lads here really want to do well. We are trying so hard to do well, especially for the boss because he’s shown faith in us.”