ADAM Johnson has compared the current rebuilding job at Sunderland to the £1billion makeover of Manchester City.
The recently-acquired winger sees some similarities in what Martin O’Neill, with help from the board, is attempting to do on Wearside, with the way Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi group revitalised his former club, which they bought in August 2008.
Johnson became a City player in 2010 when he moved from Middlesbrough for a £7m fee, which is actually one of the cheaper deals done in recent times by English football’s biggest spenders.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short, a billionaire himself, has ploughed a not insignificant amount of his own money into the Black Cats since he bought the club four weeks after the Abu Dhabi group made its move on the blue half of Manchester.
And, while he won’t get to spend the sort of money City have, manager O’Neill was allowed to write a cheque for £10m to lure 25-year-old Johnson back to the North East, as well as another for £12m for Steven Fletcher.
Johnson agreed that Sunderland at this moment in time are where Manchester City, the current Premier League champions, used to be before that Middle East revolution four years ago.
The Black Cats are a big club in terms of fanbase, stadium, ambition and tradition, but it has been some time since they have been in a financial position to challenge for honours, especially in the league.
City were exactly the same – however, an estimated £1bn has been spent to make the club one of Europe’s biggest.
And Johnson said: “With City, everyone knew where they were going. Joining Sunderland is not that drastic a change. The club is progressing, but a bit slower.
“It was all change at City when I signed there and everything was moving so fast. It has paid off for them. City went out and bought Robinho and people like that.
“Sunderland is still progressing fairly quickly. The new players have come in and are gelling as a team.” Sunderland lost for the first time this season at the weekend, to City in a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.
Johnson refused to be down-hearted after one loss, and that at the home of the champions, even if it came on a bad day for him.
He had to be substituted because he felt unwell, and was sick in the dressing room after the game.
The main reason for Johnson’s buoyancy has been the form of Steven Fletcher, who has become an instant hit with the supporters and was yesterday named September’s Premier League Player of the Month.
Johnson said: “Fletch as been unbelievable since he signed. Nobody expected him to be this good straight away.
“He’s a goalscorer and that’s what a team wants. If he doesn’t do anything all game and scores a goal to win you the game, then that’s enough for me.
“He wins us points. He’s at the right place at the right time, and will continue scoring goals.”