Advocaat to wait on Johnson call
Published 24/04/2015 | 12:06
Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat will leave it to Adam Johnson to decide if he is mentally ready to play a part in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Johnson is available for selection after the club decided not to re-impose the suspension to which he was subject following his arrest last month despite police charging him with three offences of sexual activity with a child under 16 and one of grooming on Thursday.
But Advocaat will make a decision on whether or not to involve the 27-year-old England international after discussing the situation with him to ascertain his state of mind.
Asked if the midfielder was available for the game, the Dutchman said: "He's in the squad, yes, tomorrow. If he's in the squad, then I will consider him for selection, otherwise he would not be in the squad.
"He still has to come in, but in principle if he feels okay, then he will be a member of the squad."
Asked if it was a difficult situation for him to deal with as a coach, Advocaat said: "No, because the club made a statement about it and I stay behind that, and we will wait and see what the future will bring."
That statement revealed that Sunderland had not changed their position on Johnson, who has been used as a substitute in the last three games after the suspension they initially imposed was lifted.
It said: "Following yesterday's statement from Durham Constabulary, the club recognises that the formal legal process must take its course and whilst our position remains unchanged, we will keep the matter under review.
"The club will not be making any further comment."
Advocaat is hopeful that Johnson will not be a target for opposing fans as he waits for the legal process to be completed - he is due to appear at Peterlee Magistrates' Court on May 20 - and the Professional Footballers' Association has urged restraint.
In a statement, the PFA said: "Given that this is an ongoing legal matter, it would not be appropriate to comment specifically on the case. However, we would emphasise that just like any other individual, Adam is entitled to a fair hearing.
"We are not in a position to make any further comment."
Such is Sunderland's plight - they head into the weekend sitting just a single point outside the relegation zone - that they need all the talent they can muster, and at his best, their £10million signing from Manchester City is one of their most influential players.
However, it remains to be seen how much of a part he plays in the remaining six games of a season which is threatening to spiral out of control in the wake of a 4-1 drubbing by Crystal Palace at the Stadium of Light last time out.
Advocaat has set his players the task of collecting at least six points from their remaining fixtures, although given that their last two see them travel to FA Cup finalists Arsenal and champions-elect Chelsea, the likelihood is that they will have to garner them from the next four games.
Advocaat said: "I think six, seven points must be possible, otherwise we don't deserve it. It's quite simple. If you look at the table, then we have to do it in the next four games."
However, despite not wanting to head for the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge with the club's future uncertain, the 67-year-old is refusing to write off the last two games.
He said: "Everybody thinks against Chelsea and Arsenal, there's nothing to take. I still think that you can do something there as well because I know from my experience that against those kind of teams, you can do something.
"But the first game is tomorrow. We have to do it there."
Advocaat will be without striker Steven Fletcher, who has consulted a London specialist over an ankle problem, while Wes Brown is still out and Sebastian Larsson completes his two-match ban.