SUNDERLAND have been left sweating on the fitness of Adam Johnson after the £10million summer signing pulled out of the England squad.
Johnson withdrew from the England squad last night after suffering a thigh injury in their final training session yesterday morning.
The 25-year-old underwent a scan in the afternoon and has now returned to Wearside for further treatment – ruling him out of tomorrow’s World Cup qualification opener against Moldova and Tuesday’s Wembley clash against Ukraine.
The FA have described the injury as “minor” and Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill will desperately hope it is not serious enough to keep Johnson out of Liverpool’s visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday week.
Johnson is one of 12 Sunderland players on international duty and O’Neill said last week how the fortnight’s break from domestic action is a testing time for managers.
“I’d prefer nobody played during the break, but I’m well aware that international football is very strong now,” said O’Neill.
“It takes precedence over almost everything at the moment.
“As a club manager, all you do is worry for about a fortnight until the players come back.”
The injury will also come as a personal blow to Johnson after he had been looking to cement a spot in Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Johnson was left out of the England squad for the summer’s European Championships, but impressed after being handed a recall for last month’s friendly victory over Italy.
That performance had put Johnson in firm contention to start England’s bid to secure safe qualification from Group H.
Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is now expected to take the Sunderland man’s spot on the right flank.
The irony for Johnson is that part of the reason behind his move to Wearside was to secure regular first-team football in the hope of holding down an England place.
Hodgson had spoken to the Middlesbrough academy graduate about his lack of opportunities at Man City, which ultimately cost him a place in the Euro’s.
“Roy Hodgson has been brilliant with me since he took over the England team,” said Johnson last week.
“He has said he wants his players to be playing regular first-team football – that’s something I wasn’t doing at Manchester City, but I hope it will be different for me here at Sunderland.”