ADAM JOHNSON has backed James McClean to overcome the extra attention of being a marked man as the winger struggles to replicate the form of his breakthrough season on Wearside.
Republic of Ireland international McClean endured another difficult afternoon in Saturday’s stalemate at Stoke City as Sunderland failed to test the opposition goalkeeper for the third successive outing.
But fellow wideman Johnson, himself yet to show the form which saw Sunderland pay Manchester City £10million for his services during the summer, knows from experience that McClean faces a learning curve after being thrust into the limelight last season.
Johnson said: “I remember when I was coming through. As wingers, you do get games when you get frustrated and you become isolated.
“That can be very frustrating and I could see a bit of that with him, but I think he’s strong enough and maybe he needs a bit of encouragement.
“As wingers, you can be seen not to be in the thick of the action as much because you are out wide, but he has the quality to create goals.
“Sometimes you’ve got to think of other ways to hurt teams. In your second season, people pay more attention to you and you can have two men on you at the same time and that’s why teams have been hard to score against.
“I think it’s something he will learn to deal with. He’s been terrific and we’re only eight games into the season.
“He’s been working on his game and it’s just something you have to do.
“It’s something I still do now and it is difficult when you have two or three men around you every time you get the ball.
“I think he’s finding that this season, but I’m sure he’ll work hard and it’ll all come through for him.”
Johnson admits Sunderland’s creative players need to produce more after the Black Cats registered their sixth draw in eight Premier League outings on Saturday.
But the England international believes emerging from the Britannia Stadium with a point is still a positive result after a resolute defensive display from Martin O’Neill’s side.
“I think it’s a better point than some of the draws we’ve got this season,” added the 25-year-old.
“They make it difficult for teams with their aerial presence, but I thought we defended very well.
“There are a lot of things we can do better. We haven’t been creating that much going forward, but hopefully that will change and we’ll be able to score a few more goals.
“We need to create more chances. Me, James and the other midfielders need to work harder for the strikers. We’re working on it and hopefully it will come.”