His feelings were compounded in the summer when he was left out of Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 England squad, heightening his desire to leave the newly-crowned champions. Despite tentative interest in him from Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton, Johnson was keen to move to Wearside to be closer to his Easington roots. And, after completing his £10m switch last Friday, the 25-year-old is preparing to make his first appearance in a Sunderland shirt tonight when Morecambe visit the Stadium of Light in the second round of the Capital One Cup. O'Neill, annoyed to have had Saturday's Premier League game with Reading postponed, is looking forward to having the extra options in attack of Johnson and Steven Fletcher. The length of time the pair will be on the pitch together tonight remains to be seen, although it is likely Saturday's trip to Swansea will also be in the manager's thinking when he uses his substitutes.
But he is confident Johnson is ready to play. Fletcher, a £12m buy from Wolves, may take longer to build up his match fitness after a lack of game time before his switch from Molineux. Whenever they do play in the same team, though, the Sunderland boss thinks winger Johnson and striker Fletcher can strike an understanding and pose a significant threat. Adam, with playing for England, his fitness is fine and a lot more advanced than Steven Fletcher,? said O'Neill. For Adam it would be a great opportunity here and on Tuesday. He will be playing. Fletcher gives us a bit of a new dimension. I would love to promise that we will score a lot more goals with the two in the team but I do get the impression we will create more chances.? When O'Neill speaks about Johnson he is clearly anticipating plenty of performances to stir up the Sunderland supporters. The Black Cats boss has likened the excitement he feels to the day in 2007 when he persuaded Watford to sell Ashley Young to Aston Villa for a deal worth £9.5m. Absolutely, I do feel just as excited when I signed Ashley Young,? said O'Neill.
However, Ashley had a lot to prove at that time. Adam is there, he is already there as a player. He has been so exciting and has been for a couple of years and just wants a platform to show it. He is a very exciting player. He just needs more encouragement to keep going. He is the type of player I love, someone who takes opponents on. I used to do it myself without great success!? There is likely to be a decent crowd to mark the start of both Johnson and Fletcher's careers on Wearside. Whether or not the fans turn out in force, though, is not a concern to O'Neill. I would never want to encourage or forcefully tell people to turn up. It is a costly business these days,? he said. I think some of our fans are really excited about Adam Johnson coming to this football club. I am sure they will come and support him. But over the course of the season, they will have plenty opportunities to see what we are getting.? Morecambe have started the season 11th in League Two and O'Neill will not be taking them lightly as he attempts to lead Sunderland on a good cup run. He said: They have had a good start to the season ? we've had them watched in the games and they try to play [the right way]. As maybe you would expect from most teams at this stage of the season, they're full of vitality.?
Sunderland are still looking to strengthen further before the transfer window closes on Friday night. Tottenham's Danny Rose and Blackburn's Martin Olsson are the two main left-back targets. Defender Titus Bramble, meanwhile, is believed to be interesting Celtic manager Neil Lennon, but only if they qualify for the Champions League. * Sunderland fans are strongly advised to purchase or collect their tickets beforehand to avoid potential queues or delays tonight. Tickets for the game are priced £12 and £6. Tickets are available in Black Cats Bar for £25.