Wednesday 28 September 2016

Adam Johnson profile: The rise and fall of the prodigious footballer who groomed a teenage fan

Heralded as one of England's brightest footballing prospects, Adam Johnson's life and career now lies in tatters. Here is the story of how he threw it all away

Martin Evans

Published 03/03/2016 | 08:00

Adam Johnson playing for England in 2012
Adam Johnson playing for England in 2012
Johnson and Stacey Flounders began dating in 2011
Adam Johonson tweet
Secluded spot near a Chinese takeaway where Adam Johnson allegedly met girl
Adam Johnson's Range Rover
Johnson had been dating Stacey Flounders since 2011. The couple have a daughter
Johnson became a father for the first time in January 2015
Stacey Flounders
Johnson during his Manchester City days

With a beautiful girlfriend, a baby daughter and a £60,000 a week contract playing for the club he supported as a boy, Sunderland star Adam Johnson appeared to have it all.

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But in a few short weeks at the start of 2015, the 28-year-old conspired to throw it all away by grooming and then indulging in a sexual relationship with a schoolgirl.

Sacked by his club, his once glittering career now lies in tatters, and while some of his former England colleagues will be preparing for this summer’s European Championships in France, Johnson is likely to be looking at the inside of a prison cell.

It seems highly unlikely he will ever play professional football again and like the former Sheffield United player and convicted rapist Ched Evans, will almost certainly become a national pariah.

Johnson and Stacey Flounders began dating in 2011
Johnson and Stacey Flounders began dating in 2011

Read More: Soccer star Johnson is found guilty of child sex

Born in the football obsessed north east, Johnson’s talent was clear from an early age and he joined Middlesbrough FC’s youth academy at the age of 12.

After signing as a professional, he made his debut for the first team in the UEFA Cup when he was just 17 and was soon a firm fixture in an exciting Middlesbrough side.

Talked of widely as a future England star, Johnson soon caught the eye of some of the bigger clubs and in 2010 was poached by big spending Manchester City for a fee of £8 million.

Adam Johonson tweet
Adam Johonson tweet

Read More: Video: Sky Sports News criticised for 'prison football' remark during Adam Johnson coverage

In May 2010 he fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he pulled on an England shirt for the first time in a World Cup warm up match against Mexico at Wembley.

Johnson had been dating Stacey Flounders since 2011. The couple have a daughter
Johnson had been dating Stacey Flounders since 2011. The couple have a daughter

He went on to win a further 12 international caps, but competing with some of the biggest names in the game for a first team place at Manchester City, his form began to dip and he was not selected for the England squad that travelled to South Africa that summer.

It was during this period he began to earn a reputation as something of a party animal.

With £80,000 a week burning a hole in his designer pockets he rented out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Cheshire mansion and was a regular in the most fashionable pubs and clubs of Manchester.

He eventually fell out of favour at Manchester City and claimed the then manager Roberto Mancini even stopped speaking to him.

Adam Johnson's Range Rover
Adam Johnson's Range Rover

In the summer 2012, desperate to resurrect his international career, he took a cut in wages to sign for his hometown club in the hope of securing some first team football again.

Read More: How Adam Johnson went from Premier League boy wonder to footballing pariah

Secluded spot near a Chinese takeaway where Adam Johnson allegedly met girl
Secluded spot near a Chinese takeaway where Adam Johnson allegedly met girl

He had begun dating local girl Stacey Flounders and in a bid to knuckle down and avoid temptation bought a £1.85 million home in a secluded part of rural County Durham.

But with an Achilles heel for pretty girls and too much free time spent on social media, Johnson allowed himself get carried away sending lewd messages to other women.

He had admitted that when holed up in hotel rooms around the country he would amuse himself by flirting with girls he met on social media.

Stacey Flounders
Stacey Flounders
Johnson during his Manchester City days
Johnson during his Manchester City days

Unfortunately one of these happened to be a teenage schoolgirl, who made no secret of her age.

Their initial encounter appears to have come when she was 14 and like many obsessed supporters would camp outside Sunderland’s training ground to catch a glimpse with one of her heroes.

Read More: Adam Johnson faces 'substantial' jail term over child sex conviction

Dressed in Sunderland shirt, she persuaded Johnson to pose for a photograph with her, which her parents then used on a cake to celebrate her 15th birthday.

By her own admission the girl "idolised" Johnson. He was her favourite player and she had a huge crush on him.

A few days before New Year's Eve 2014, more in hope than expectation, she sent Johnson a friend request on Facebook and was astonished when he not only accepted but responded by sending her his mobile phone number.

Initially she did not believe it was really him and repeatedly asked the player to prove it by updating his Twitter account with a Happy New Year message.

He duly complied.

And so began weeks of grooming during which the player exchanged more than 800 messages with the girl, mainly via the WhatsApp social media messenger service.

And so began weeks of grooming during which the player exchanged more than 800 messages with the girl, mainly via the WhatsApp social media messenger service.

In one exchange he told her she could not tell anyone they were communicating.

He then asked her: "Are you in the last year of school?"

She responded: "Year 10."

Johnson then asked her where she went out, to which she replied: "I'm not old enough to go out."

He responded: "Yeah but you look old enough...when are you 16?"

She replied: "November"

He responded: "Ages then?"

Despite having established that she had only recently turned 15, Johnson continued to pursue the girl with all the enthusiasm of a schoolboy with a crush.

They eventually met on January 17 behind a local Chinese takeaway with Johnson inviting her into his £80,000 Ranger Rover Sport car.

After spending some time talking about football Johnson gave her a signed shirt before dropping her off.

Following the meeting the flirty messages continued with Johnson telling the girl he was looking forward to her thanking him for the shirt.

They arranged to meet on January 30 and he once again picked her up in his luxury Range Rover.

This time he admitted kissing her in a sexual manner and the prosecution claimed he took things further by digitally penetrating her and allowing her to perform oral sex on him.

Following the trial he was convicted of the former charge but cleared of the latter.

While such behaviour reprehensible behaviour is clearly indefensible, what is all the more astonishing is that it was taking place at a time when he ought to have celebrating becoming a father for the first time.

In January 8 last year, Miss Flounders gave birth to their baby daughter, but Johnson continued to bombard the besotted teenager with messages as he engineered a liaison.

Then his mobile phone was seized by police it revealed how he had sent lewd messages to the girl, telling her he wanted to get her jeans off, just seconds after sending texts to his girlfriend about their baby daughter.

A short time after his first sexual encounter Johnson received a message from Miss Flounders containing a picture of their baby daughter.

Seconds later he sent the alleged victim, a message that read: “It was class, just wanted to get your jeans off…I will last ten seconds though...because it will be too good...you felt very turned on.”

The teenager was at the local pantomime at the time.

It also emerged during the trial that Johnson had conducted internet searches about the "age of consent" just four days after his meeting with the 15-year-old.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the schoolgirl, who had caught the eye of a millionaire footballer, was not able to keep quiet about the encounter, confiding in her fascinated friends and even secretly filming the encounter on her mobile phone.

Gossip spread like wildfire among the tight knit community and the girl was soon being teased and taunted about the relationship.

Horrified and devastated she told her parents who insisted she report the matter to the local police.

Johnson was arrested the following day in the games room of his £1.85 million Castle Eden home.

He initially insisted he had only met the girl to give her a signed shirt, but during police interview admitted kissing her.

After telling a series of lies to his girlfriend, the footballer subsequently admitted his actions to Miss Flounders and also confessed to other infidelities.

It can now be revealed that around the same time he was bombarding the teenager with messages he was also texting other girls in the hope of arranging sexual encounters.

The prosecution claimed Johnson was in contact with at least three other women at around the same time.

The fallout following his arrest and charge was enormous, with Sunderland initially suspending him from playing.

He was subsequently reinstated but became an immediate target for opposing fans who taunted him endlessly from the terraces.

It has now emerged that Sunderland chief executive, Margaret Byrne, knew of his guilt shortly after his arrest last March, but failed to sack him immediately and even reinstated him as the club fought to avoid relegation.

Johnson played a further 28 times following his arrest and was only sacked by the club after he made his guilty pleas on the first day of his trial last month.

During the trial, Johnson said that since he changed his plea to guilty, his fellow Sunderland players had “taken a step back” from him.

Steven Fletcher - who is currently on loan from Sunderland to Marseille - was initially going to give evidence at the trial but later withdrew.

Miss Flounders who initially stood by Johnson following his arrest later dumped the footballer saying while they would remain friends, she did not see a future for them together.

Giving evidence in his defence, Johnson admitted he had thrown away a “glittering career” in professional football due to his own “stupidity and arrogance”.

He said his life as a professional footballer was “every young boy's dream”, telling the jury: “You get put on a pedestal. People scream your name. It's the best thing in the world. You everything done for you and get a lot of things easy.”

Forced to sign the sex offenders register, Johnson has been warned he could be looking at a five year prison sentence.

 

Adam Johnson

Born:1987

From: Sunderland. Grew up in Easington, County Durham

Position: Winger

Rise and fall

1999: Talent spotted as a child and admitted to Middlesborough's youth academy at the age of 12

2005: Made his senior debut at 17 in a Uefa Cup game

2010: Signed to Manchester City for an undisclosed fee

2010: Made his England debut in a World Cup warm-up match against Mexico at Wembley. Scored his first international goal in England's 4-0 victory over Bulgaria in a Euro 2012 qualifier

2012: Signed to Sunderland, the club he supported as a boy, for £10m

2014: Teenage fan makes contact with him on New Year's Eve via Facebook. He responds by sending his mobile phone number

2015: Spends weeks grooming the 15-year-old girl with more than 800 messages eventually arranging to meet her

2015: Johnson kisses the girl in his car but claims things went no further

2015: The girl goes to police alleging Johnson digitally penetrated her and she performed oral sex on him. He is arrested and charged

2016: Johnson goes on trial charged with three counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of grooming

2016: He is sacked by Sunderland after pleading guilty to two of the charges

2016: Johnson is found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child but is cleared on a second count

 

Telegraph.co.uk

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