Sunderland boss Advocaat: Johnson case won’t distract us

CHARGES ... Adam Johnson.
CHARGES ... Adam Johnson.

DICK ADVOCAAT does not believe the media circus surrounding Adam Johnson will distract Sunderland in their bid to remain in the Premier League.

Johnson is pencilled in to the Sunderland squad for today’s trip to Stoke City after the club yesterday confirmed he remained available for selection, despite being charged with three counts of sexual activity with a child under 16 and one of grooming.

Adam Johnson.

Adam Johnson.

The legal case surrounding Johnson has prompted headline news across the country this week and there will inevitably be much media attention if he is indeed involved today.

But Advocaat says the Sunderland squad is used to the attention on the 27-year-old after he was first arrested on the eve of the Black Cats’ draw at fellow strugglers Hull City last month.

The head coach does not believe this week’s events will have altered things, with Sunderland still fighting for their lives in the relegation dogfight.

“This all started a couple of months ago, so the players know everything,” said Advocaat.

“There’s no reason to start thinking again. Nothing has changed.

“The only thing is that I want to say is that the club made a statement about it and he’s available for selection.

“He will be a member of the squad.”

Johnson has made three substitute appearances for Sunderland after his club suspension was lifted, following his initial arrest.

But the ex-Manchester City man could be in contention to start at the Britannia after striker Steven Fletcher was ruled out of the trip to the Potteries with an ankle injury.

Fit-again Will Buckley is an alternative option, yet the winger has been unused from the bench for the last two games after recovering from a knee problem.

And with Johnson training this week, Advocaat does not envisage any physical or mental barriers towards his involvement.

“He trained at the beginning of the week,” added Advocaat.

“He was not here for two days, but he trained yesterday, so I have no doubt about his sharpness.”