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Johnson given license to thrill
Published : 29 Aug 2012 07:17:19
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has told Adam Johnson to concentrate on thrilling the Wearside crowd after an impressive debut.
The former Manchester City winger, who completed a big-money move to the Stadium of Light on Friday, lit up the Capital One Cup second round victory over npower League Two side Morecambe. It was he who set up both goals for James McClean as the Black Cats strolled to a 2-0 win to book their place in the draw for the next round.
"I want him to go and attack players like he did tonight and get the crowd on their feet, which he is capable of doing," O'Neill said.
Johnson was allowed to leave City after manager Roberto Mancini, who had expressed concern over his defensive efforts, decided he was surplus to requirements. But while O'Neill is confident he can contribute to that side of Sunderland's game, he would rather him do what he does best.
He said: "Sometimes to forward-thinking players, you have to give that part of the game some consideration and during the course of the season, of course he will probably have to tuck in.
"But I think he can do it and I think he has got a willingness to want to do it. But mainly for us, he wants to get on the ball and that's something we want."
If it was Johnson's debut which perhaps most thrilled the crowd, McClean's contribution proved decisive on the night as he opened both his and his side's account for the season.
The Black Cats, who drew 0-0 at Arsenal on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season but them saw Saturday's home clash with Reading washed out, took the lead when the Republic of Ireland international headed home Johnson's 24th-minute corner at the near post. Although Sunderland dominated for long periods, they had to wait until the 65th minute for the same man to wrap up the victory as he danced into space inside the box from Johnson's pass to fire past keeper Barry Roche.
Shrimps boss Jim Bentley was delighted with the way his players had responded to the challenge of taking on a side including Johnson, fellow new boy Steven Fletcher and the other big names at O'Neill's disposal.
"It was great. That's what the lads wanted to play against. It's always nice as a footballer to pit your wits against the best in the business," he said. "They have got an unbelievable amount of quality - the two new signings and Louis Saha, who's a bit of a hero of mine being an Evertonian, coming off the bench as well."