Well it’s been a mad day for Lee Johnson. He was announced as new Head Coach at lunchtime, took charge of his first game at 3pm and faced the press following his first defeat at 5pm.
“I think my honeymoon period lasted 15 minutes,” Johnson said. “I’ll start from the start. Four hours into my reign, I really wanted to take the game today. I’m pleased I did because the learning process is really important. Not only am I learning about the players, I’m also learning about the staff and the feel of things. I did feel it was a little bit quiet in and around the place, and I wasn’t sure whether that was because it’s a manager’s day one. It’s my job to promote an element of creativity and not have personality supressed. Obviously, this is a very big club and that comes with heavy scrutiny on everybody. I feel like I’m big enough and ugly enough to cope with that over the long term, and step by step, keep progressing. I thought the first ten or 15 minutes was good in terms of what I asked them to do, which was have an attitude to play forward quicker, play forward run forward and break lines with their passing. I want them to receive well between the lines, but then have the attitude to turn. I feel we crossed the ball from poor areas too early and effectively let the opposition off the hook too many times. I thought the boys tried to implement the high press that we asked them to do, and that was a prerequisite as we came into the job.”
Johnson has already realised that we lack pace and power up front and is looking to address that in next month’s transfer window. He said: “I do think it looks like we need a bit of help in terms of a couple of attributes. Maybe we need a couple of extra personnel if possible in January. Maybe somebody to stretch the game in a certain position, maybe we need a bit of extra pace and power. I think that will open it up for other players to come in to it – that would be a priority. We definitely need to go back onto the training ground and work on movement in the box. We’re looking for players to get across the near post to disrupt the opposition back four, and then we need more bodies in the box. We were playing a 4-3-3 today to start with, and that should enable you to get at least four into the box, sometimes five. I just think at times, whether through a lack of understanding or cohesion, we didn’t get enough numbers into the box and also didn’t get enough quality, dynamic movement.”
The new gaffer has also given Aiden McGeady a clean slate. He said: “When I shook hands on the deal and still had to dot the is and cross the ts, I wanted to pick the team. Aiden was sub, but I brought him into the starting XI. The thought process behind that was servicing my own and everyone else’s agenda. Knowing Aiden, and having played against him with my teams, I thought it was important to give him a clean slate. If he’s mentally and physically right, Aiden McGeady surely has to be one of the best players in this division. Lacking a bit of confidence and creativity, it was important to try to bring that back. I thought he did okay. I thought he tried to unlock a door. It didn’t always happen, but maybe we didn’t feed him as well as we could have done at times. It was important to get him a solid 75 minutes.”
Johnson on why he will succeed where others have failed. "I certainly think Sunderland's reputation as a fanbase club that is extremely powerful in its passion," said Johnson. "As a coach there's an element of an ego there, I want to the one to be successful at the football club. I understand there's been good managers in the past that haven't been able to be successful, I've just got that dirty desire to restore Sunderland to its former glory. The pressure is a privilege. I missed the fans today, all I wanted to do was meet them and feel that energy. I saw with the squad today that I'm going to have to take on that role of confidence builder. There are good players here, and what we need to create here, and it starts with me, that we create this really powerful beast that gets everybody on board. I understand exactly what the fans will be thinking, what's going on? Is there new ownership coming in? Will the old owners support the head coach? Is he clear on he his role? I'm here to be as honest as possible with the fans, to drive it forward and to try and deliver success. I'm super excited. I just see this big ball of potential. I understand one man can't drive it alone but I'll certainly be at the forefront of bringing the energy, enthusiasm and fight. I've got such a will to try and impose my playing philosophy on the football club. I think there's a will to allow me to do that. I feel like the place really needs to find its personality. I feel like we need to find the pitch personality, and we need an internal drive. All I can assure people is that we will die in a ditch trying to drag this club to where it needs to be. I certainly think there's no way in the world we give up on anything.”