Johnson: Cup win would be massive
Adam Johnson admits winning the Capital One Cup with Sunderland would be the highlight of his career to date.
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The 26-year-old has 11 senior England caps to his name, as well as winners medals in the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield from his time at Manchester City and an FA Youth Cup triumph with first club Middlesbrough.
However, given that the current campaign has seen the Black Cats dispense with Paolo Di Canio after a disastrous start which propelled them into a desperate fight for top-flight survival, victory over City at Wembley on Sunday would be little short of remarkable.
Johnson said: "Especially the way the season has gone and playing City, it would probably be the highlight of my career, especially with Sunderland.
"When I was at City winning trophies and things, it was half-expected. But at Sunderland, no-one has even given us a chance of winning anything, so to bring that back would be massive."
The fact that Sunderland, backed by 31,000 fans, will even set foot on Wembley's hallowed turf this weekend is an achievement in itself after the club was left in disarray when Di Canio's colourful reign was brought to a sudden conclusion.
Replacement Gus Poyet's mission was simply to ensure the club remained in the Premier League, and that outcome is still far from certain.
Nevertheless, the recovery he has inspired has led to an unexpected bonus, and it is one which Johnson and his team-mates are determined to exploit to the full.
The winger said: "That's just how it goes, isn't it, in football? One minute, you are struggling and the next minute, it can all change for you.
"In recent months, we have improved - we have had to improve, otherwise we would have been long gone by now.
"The cups have given us a massive lift as well with the league form. It's a great day out for everyone, everyone is just looking forward to it."
However, Johnson knows better than most the difficulty of the task which lies ahead after spending two-and-a-half years at the Etihad Stadium, the latter part of it having largely fallen out of favour with then manager Roberto Mancini.
A £10million switch to the Stadium of Light in August 2012 gave him a fresh start, and - although he has taken time to settle on Wearside - the Easington-born midfielder has rediscovered his best form in recent months.
Johnson is not so sure he has anything left to prove to anyone at City on Sunday, but that will make little difference to his approach.
He said: "I don't know, it's been a while now since I left. But regardless of who you are playing for, as a player, you would always want to prove something in the final anyway whether you are the best player in the world or someone in his first final.
"You still want to be the best player on the pitch or the best player you can be, and I will be no different whether it's against City or anyone else."
Should Sunderland defy the odds and beat City to lift their first piece of major silverware since their 1973 FA Cup triumph, the knock-on effect could be immeasurable.
Ten years ago, a 16-year-old Johnson was part of Boro's Youth Cup winning squad as the club's senior team lifted the then Carling Cup at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
He said: "I was 15 or 16 and I can remember the atmosphere on the training ground building up to the final. It was a great day out for everyone and all the lads who went down to watch it.
"I remember after the final, it just gave everyone a lift around the whole training ground, not just the first team.
"That ran down into the young lads as well and inspired us to want to be there."