GUS Poyet is desperate for Adam Johnson to be Sunderland’s secret weapon in their Premier League survival bid.
The Black Cats’ head coach has identified the former England winger as the player capable of being Sunderland’s match-winner on a regular basis – providing he can find a purple patch of form in the months ahead.
But he’s aware – given Johnson’s sporadic impact at the Stadium of Light since his £10m transfer from Manchester City in August 2012 – that that could well be his biggest challenge of the campaign.
“We have to find a way to get the best out of Adam because I understand that has not been the case so far,” Poyet said.
“Adam Johnson needs to make the difference.
“He’s that type of player – a player who has the quality to change the match for you in a single moment – and we need him to be making the difference for us in games.
“If he’s not doing that, then it is my job to change that and to help him.
“But I was pleased to see him do well against Carlisle United and hopefully that is the start of things turning around for him.
Johnson scored Sunderland’s first in the 3-1 FA Cup third round win over Carlisle, saw his shot deflected in for his side’s second and played a major part in creating the third.
And he followed that up with an eye-catching substitute appearance against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup semi-final, in which he asked all sorts of question of the Red Devils’ defence and earned the penalty from which Fabio Borini scored the match-winner in the 2-1 first leg victory.
Poyet said: “Adam’s performance made my day – I think it was the thing I was most pleased about in the whole game because we need him to play like that regularly.”
The Uruguayan hopes the 26-year-old, who he believes has the talent to regain his England place, can play a major part in Sunderland’s efforts to make their league results match their cup form.
Johnson has scored twice in the Capital One Cup, once in the league this season, but Poyet sees the potential for a sustained run of form in attack if he can work out what suits the player best.
He said: “We know Adam has the ability to win us games, it is just a case of getting him to do it more often.
“He knows that too, and I believe that he is just as keen as we are to get the best out of him.
“It has been frustrating for him and us but there are signs there that we might be able to find the way to get the best out of him;.
“If we can do, it will be fantastic, because to get out of trouble we need to win more games and he is the player who can win a game for you – we’ve seen that in his last couple of performances.”