O'Neill has high hopes for Johnson
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill is hoping summer signing Adam Johnson is finally up and running after opening his goalscoring account.
The 25-year-old winger has spent this week on Wearside after being left out of the England squad following a tough start to his career at the Stadium of Light. Johnson returned early from international duty in September with a thigh injury which has hampered his efforts to establish himself at the club which invested £10million in his services.
However, his strike at Everton last weekend, which ultimately counted for little other than his personal development after the Toffees staged a fightback to win 2-1, has lifted his mood and O'Neill is now looking for him to show more. He said: "Scoring the goal was very, very important."
O'Neill, who is preparing his team to face Fulham in the Barclays Premier League, added: "I don't care who you are, the very, very best players can lose confidence, but eventually, if you feel as if you have the talent, you should pull through.
"How you do that is either getting down to doing things more regularly in training - there's always a possibility of being able to resolve it then - but the confidence really comes from performing on the field.
"I have said this before and it's almost as if it's a recurring theme, but players who are confident and who can make things happen when they are confident, it's a major boost to them when they feel as if they are capable of doing it."
Sunderland head for Craven Cottage in the midst of a frustrating run of results which has left them just three points clear of the relegation zone. They have won only one of their last 18 league games dating back to March, although the defeat at Everton was just their third of the current campaign.
A return of nine points from 10 games is significantly less than they might have hoped for, but O'Neill, while recognising that their tally needs to start ticking over rather more quickly, insists there is no real cause for concern.
He said: "There are a group of teams gathered where there is not a great deal of points differential.
"But we can talk about it every single week here - we need to win some football matches and the sooner we do that, the better. We have to look at points on the board now at this stage and start galvanising ourselves."