Allardyce 'gobsmacked' when Johnson pleaded guilty

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce insists he only played Adam Johnson while he awaited trail on child sex offences because the player continued to protest his innocence.

Sunderland Sam Allardyce Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson Source: Getty Images

The 28-year-old midfielder, who was sacked by the club after admitting charges of engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl and grooming on the eve of his court appearance last month, was convicted on a further count of sexual activity with a child and acquitted of another on Wednesday.

He now faces a lengthy spell in jail as pressure mounts on the Black Cats to explain what they knew and when amid claims made in court that they continued to play him despite knowing the detail of the allegations, something they have strenuously denied.

Advertisement


Manager Allardyce, who was appointed in October, some seven months after Johnson's arrest, admitted he was 'gobsmacked' when he learned of the guilty pleas.

He said: "I am hugely disappointed on Adam Johnson and what has happened, but my sympathies don't lie with him, they lie with the victim and the family.

"Adam, as far as I know, was pleading not guilty all the way through from the day I arrived - obviously, this incident had happened well before I got here.

"On the basis of that information to me that he was pleading not guilty on all charges is why we continued to let him train and play for us.

"We were all, at the football club, stunned and shocked the day before the trial started when we heard a guilty plea come out. I was sat at home when it came on the news and I just was gobsmacked because as far as we were concerned, it was not guilty on all charges.

"Now the judgement has been made, we all feel extremely let down by what has happened and by what Adam has done, and certainly feel a lot of sympathy for the victim and the family.

"That has now hopefully given them some peace and they can now get on with their lives and we can get on with our football."

In the meantime, Allardyce revealed he has spoken to the remainder of the squad about the situation and warned them not to lose focus as they attempt to stave off relegation from the Premier League.

He said: "Everybody is well aware of the situation that it has left the club in and left them in. I think they are all as disappointed as we are as a football club. They are all going to have to make sure they put that behind them."

Allardyce's comments came as the club found itself at the centre of criticism for suspending Johnson for a fortnight after his arrest rather that throughout the police investigation into his crimes amid suggestions - which they insist are inaccurate - that they played him because they needed him on the pitch.

A spokesman for the NSPCC said: "If they had known he had kissed a girl prior to his guilty plea, then we think they should have suspended him pending the ongoing investigation. It would have sent the right message to people that this is a serious offence and needed to be properly investigated."

There were strong words too from Clare Phillipson, director of charity Wearside Women in Need, who said: "If that's true, then at that point they definitely should have suspended him because in allowing him to continue to play, tens of thousands of fans and lots of other people thought, 'Oh well, the club is still letting him play, the case against him can't be very good, he probably is innocent'.

"Once again, that leaves the victim feeling vilified and not believed and feeling that she was at fault and it was her who was to blame."

The Professional Footballers' Association said Johnson's actions were 'extremely disappointing' and showed the organisation still had work to do in educating players.

A PFA statement read: "Players are role models and as such have a responsibility to behave in an appropriate way. It is extremely disappointing to see the damage caused by the actions of one of our members. Adam has clearly made very serious mistakes and in due course the court will determine his punishment.

"As the players' union we are very conscious of the role and responsibility of our members and we work hard to ensure they receive relevant information and important guidance regarding appropriate standards of conduct."

The PFA, whose chief executive is Gordon Taylor, pointed out it has developed a training programme that has received input from groups including Rape Crisis, White Ribbon and Women's Aid, to make sure players were fully informed on issues including 'sexual consent, standards of behaviour and respectful relationships in person and on social media'.

The statement added: "Situations such as this, unfortunately, demonstrate that this is a vital area for our focus and that there is still much work to do."

The Football Association criticised the behaviour of former England player Johnson.

An FA statement read: "Adam Johnson's conduct in this case is to be condemned. Our thoughts are with the victim and her family as they look to rebuild their lives after this traumatic ordeal.

"The FA's safeguarding team spoke with the club in April 2015. Sunderland confirmed Adam Johnson did not have any roles with the club involving a position of trust with children and was not involved in their community schemes.

"The FA now awaits the sentencing hearing and the final decision of the court in this matter."


Share
Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 4 March 2016 at 4:55am
By Damian Spellman
Source: PA Sport