Adam Johnson, born on July 14, 1987, is a retired English footballer who was a winger. He began his career in Middlesbrough’s youth academy, gaining recognition when he debuted at 17 in a UEFA Cup match. Johnson played 120 games for Middlesbrough and had loan spells at Leeds United and Watford.
In February 2010, he moved to Manchester City, where he secured victory in the FA Cup in 2011 and claimed the Premier League title the subsequent year.
Sunderland, his hometown club, signed him for £10 million 2012. Johnson represented England at various levels, earning 12 senior caps.
In March 2015, Johnson faced arrest and charges related to sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl, despite the age of consent in England being 16.
Shockingly, he continued to play for Sunderland while on bail. In February of the following year, he pleaded guilty to two charges, including child grooming, and was subsequently dismissed by Sunderland.
In March 2016, Johnson was convicted of having sexual contact with a minor and was given a six-year prison sentence. He was released in 2019 after serving half of his sentence.
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Adam Johnson’s Early Life
Johnson hails from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, and spent his formative years in Easington, County Durham, in the North East of England.
His early football days were marked by his involvement with the Cleveland Juniors Football Club at Easington Community Science College.
A significant moment in his youth occurred when Johnny Haynes, upon witnessing Johnson’s impressive performance, lauded him as “a remarkable young talent” and praised his “exquisite left-footed skills” after he scored two goals at a seven-a-side school match held at Wembley Stadium.
Adam Johnson’s Early Club Career
At 12, Johnson’s journey in football led him to Middlesbrough’s youth academy, following a prior stint at Newcastle United’s Centre of Excellence from 1995 to 1997.
His association with Boro saw him join forces with teammates David Wheater, Tony McMahon, and Andrew Taylor, forming a part of the squad that clinched victory in the 2003–04 FA Youth Cup.
His inaugural appearance on the senior stage came when he was just 17, on March 17, 2005, in a UEFA Cup match that ended in a 1–0 loss against Sporting CP.
This match also marked the club’s exit from the competition with a 4–2 aggregate score in the last 16.
Johnson replaced Doriva for the final 11 minutes of the game. Nearly six months later, on September 10, he made his Premier League debut and earned his first senior start, filling in for the injured academy graduate Stewart Downing in a 2–1 home triumph against Arsenal.
During the initial part of the 2005–06 season, Johnson primarily found himself on the bench as an unused substitute, particularly in UEFA Cup matches.
However, his second start in the competition occurred on December 15, in a match against Litex Lovech, where he contributed to Massimo Maccarone’s opening goal in a 2–0 victory.
For the rest of the season, he continued to be a regular presence in the team’s matchday lineups, frequently stepping in as an alternative for Downing or remaining on the bench as an unused substitute.
Johnson’s first goal for Middlesbrough arrived in a midweek Premier League encounter against Bolton Wanderers on May 3, 2006. He initiated the scoring with “a skillful run from the left flank before delivering a shot that took a deflection” in a 1–1 draw.
Adam Johnson’s inclusion in the lineup was due to Middlesbrough’s participation in the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, scheduled for the following week, leading to Steve McClaren resting most of the first-team players. On June 30, 2006, Johnson committed to a new four-year contract extension with the club.
Adam Johnson’s Loans to Leeds United and Watford
On October 16, 2006, Adam Johnson embarked on a month-long loan journey to Leeds United, having been brought into the fold by Leeds’ interim manager, John Carver.
Despite earning the Man of the Match award in his debut, Johnson faced challenges in making a significant impact, given Leeds’ struggles in the Championship.
Adam Johnson featured in four matches during his loan stint but eventually returned to Middlesbrough as Leeds decided not to extend his loan. Later in the season, he appeared as a substitute in the FA Cup replay against Bristol City.
His contribution played a crucial role in Middlesbrough’s progression to the next round, as he both set up a goal and scored the decisive penalty during the shootout.
In September 2007, Adam Johnson embarked on another loan spell, this time with Championship club Watford, initially slated for three months. During his time at Watford, he played in 12 matches and managed to find the back of the net five times.
His impressive displays led to an earlier recall to Middlesbrough than initially planned in the loan agreement.
Adam Johnson Return to Middlesbrough
In the final game of the season, Adam Johnson had a significant impact. He scored an impressive 18-yard goal shortly after being substituted.
His goal contributed to Boro’s remarkable 8-1 victory over Manchester City. This win was highly memorable for the team.
As the 2008–09 season unfolded, he notched up 32 appearances, with half of those coming off the bench, given Downing’s prominence as the first-choice player.
However, as the season progressed, he found himself in the starting lineup more frequently due to Downing’s extended absence caused by a long-term injury.
Adam Johnson’s significance in Boro’s Championship squad for the 2009–10 season grew substantially following Downing’s transfer to Aston Villa.
He made an impactful start to the season, contributing three of Boro’s five goals in the initial three matches. Surprisingly, despite his position as a winger, he led the team’s scoring charts with eight goals throughout the first half of the season, prompting concerns from the new manager, Gordon Strachan, about relying too heavily on Johnson for purposes.
In an August 18 match against Scunthorpe United, Adam Johnson faced both the agony of missing a penalty awarded for a foul on Rhys Williams and the ecstasy of scoring another after being fouled by the Scunthorpe goalkeeper in the penalty box during their duel for the rebound.
Amidst a promising start to the season, the highly-regarded young talent became the subject of transfer speculations. Despite such rumors, Boro’s management reiterated their commitment to retaining him.
However, Johnson chose not to extend his contract, which was set to expire after the 2009–10 season. On December 13, he suffered a hamstring injury.
He was substituted for Marvin Emnes in the 1–0 home loss to Cardiff City but made a resilient comeback, scoring a penalty against Scunthorpe in a 3–0 victory, elevating his goal tally into double figures.
Adam Johnson’s season he was continued to shine as he delivered a man-of-the-match performance against Doncaster Rovers on January 26, netting a brace and ending Boro’s winless away streak dating back to October.
In recognition of his unwavering consistency, Johnson was a well-deserved nominee for the North East Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year award, further solidifying his place among a line of accomplished Boro players who had previously received the honor.
Adam Johnson in Manchester City
During the active winter transfer window, Adam Johnson became the focus of transfer speculations as reports emerged that Manchester City had put forward an offer to Middlesbrough.
The interest from Manchester City had intensified following Johnson’s recent encounter with the team in an FA Cup third-round match.
Despite being forced to leave the field due to injury in the first half, Johnson had undeniably been the standout player during his brief 30-minute spell.
On February 1, 2010, City secured his services for an undisclosed fee, rumored to be around £7 million, on a four-and-a-half-year contract.
Johnson debuted for City on February 6, becoming a substitute for Stephen Ireland against Hull City. Three days later, he earned his first start, taking up a position on the right side of a three-person attacking formation alongside Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Adam Johnson’s performance in this match against Bolton Wanderers was exceptional, earning him the Man of the Match accolade.
He marked his presence with a goal against Sunderland, elegantly curling a left-footed strike into the top corner deep into injury time to secure a dramatic 1–1 draw.
His impressive display caught the attention of England manager Fabio Capello, who publicly praised him and considered him for national team selection.
On New Year’s Day, Adam Johnson scored the winning goal in a 1–0 victory against Blackpool, dedicating his goal to Dale Roberts, a close friend and Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper who tragically took his own life on December 14, 2010.
Adam Johnson concluded the season with his first senior trophy, the 2011 FA Cup, entering the final as a substitute.
During the pre-season Dublin Super Cup, Adam Johnson made his mark by scoring in two 3–0 victories against Inter Milan and the League of Ireland XI.
He was featured in Manchester City’s first Premier League match against Swansea City, providing an assist when Michel Vorm saved his shot, and Edin Džeko converted the rebound. City triumphed with a 4–0 win.
He maintained his impressive form by scoring his debut goal of the season in a 4-0 triumph over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Johnson extended his goal-scoring streak in the subsequent match against Aston Villa, with City prevailing 4–1.
On October 26, 2011, he showcased his scoring prowess and assisted in a 5–2 League Cup victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Three days later, he again found the back of the net against Wolves, this time in a 3–1 home league win.
In the next round, he orchestrated the sole goal of the match, delivering a precise through-ball for Sergio Agüero to score in a 1–0 away win against Arsenal.
In a home game, Sunderland secured a convincing 5-1 victory over Norwich City. His sixth goal came in a 3-0 win against Stoke City on December 21.
In April, he added another goal to his tally in a dominant 6-1 win against Norwich at Carrow Road. Johnson finished the season with 26 league appearances, and Manchester City clinched the 2011-12 Premier League title dramatically on the final day.
Adam Johnson in Sunderland
On August 24, 2012, his hometown team, Sunderland, signed Johnson on a four-year contract for £10 million.
Sunderland’s manager, Martin O’Neill, expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “Our primary goal this summer has been to enhance the quality of our squad, and Adam undoubtedly fulfills that objective.
His remarkable skills and exceptional delivery make him a player who will excite our fans. I am delighted to welcome him to the club.”
On August 28, Johnson debuted for Sunderland in the League Cup’s second round, where they triumphed 2-0 over a League Two team, Morecambe, at the Stadium of Light.
Adam Johnson marked his first goal for the club on November 10, initiating the scoring in a match that ended 1-2 in favor of Everton.
He scored the only goal of a win over former club Manchester City at home on December 26. In April 2013, against Sunderland’s fierce rivals Newcastle at St James’ Park, Johnson picked up the ball on Sunderland’s right.
He cut inside before sending a curling effort past Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot with his left foot to score. Johnson notched his initial goal of the 2013–14 season during a League Cup match against Milton Keynes Dons.
He embarked on a run from midfield, contributing to Sunderland’s astonishing burst of four goals within just 12 minutes, securing a 4-2 victory.
However, his form suffered as Sunderland struggled to one point from the first eight matches, a run that cost manager Paolo Di Canio his job.
Adam Johnson’s next goal came in a 2–1 home defeat to Tottenham on December 7. After losing his place in the starting lineup, the FA Cup third-round match with Carlisle United marked a turning point in Johnson’s fortunes as he scored a free kick and played a part in both other goals in Sunderland’s 3–1 win.
Two days later, Adam Johnson was brought on as a substitute in the League Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester United and won a penalty after being fouled by Tom Cleverley, which Fabio Borini scored to give Sunderland a 2–1 advantage going into the second leg.
Manager Gus Poyet praised Johnson’s contribution as ‘outstanding’. On January 11, 2014, he scored his first career hat-trick and assisted Ki Sung-Yueng, inspiring Sunderland to a 4–1 away win against Fulham, which lifted them off the bottom of the table.
In January 2014, he earned the Premier League Player of the Month award. However, during the League Cup Final against Manchester City on March 2, he assisted Borini for the opening goal in the tenth minute, but Sunderland ultimately lost 1-3.
His first goal of the 2014–15 season came on August 27 in the League Cup against Birmingham City, where he scored the second goal in a 3–0 win.
His first league goal of the season came on September 13, when he scored a solo effort in a 2–2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at the Stadium of Light.
On December 21, he scored a 90th-minute winning goal away to Newcastle, securing Sunderland’s 4th consecutive win over their local rivals and his third goal in three seasons against the club.
Five days later, Johnson opened the scoring after 30 seconds against Hull City but could not help the team avoid defeat as they lost 1–3.
On New Year’s Day 2015, he netted his fifth goal with a penalty of the season, leveling the score at 2-2 against Manchester City, but Sunderland ultimately lost 3-2.
He was immediately suspended by Sunderland on March 2, 2015, after his arrest on suspicion of having sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl.
His suspension lasted for two matches under manager Gus Poyet; following Poyet’s sacking and the appointment of new manager Dick Advocaat on March 17, Johnson returned to the club on March 18 and played in the next game on March 21.
Despite Adam Johnson later being charged with three offenses, Sunderland continued to select him while he initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.
During Johnson’s trial, he claimed that he admitted to Sunderland in May 2015 that he had kissed the girl and sent her sexually explicit messages.
Having played the first match of the new season, Johnson injured himself in August 2015, putting him out for two months. On October 25, he scored a penalty in the Tyne-Wear derby, opening the scoring before halftime in an eventual 3–0 win.
Adam Johnson’s International career
Johnson, a former England under-19 international, had a brief but eventful career in the national team. He made his mark in the under-21 squad, contributing to their qualification for the UEFA U21 Championships 2009. His senior debut came in a FIFA World Cup warm-up match in 2010, but he narrowly missed making the final squad for the tournament.
He made his full England debut in a match against Hungary after the 2010 World Cup, and he scored his first international goal in a UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria. Johnson later scored another goal against Switzerland and earned 12 caps for the national team.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s career took a dark turn when he became embroiled in a legal case involving sexual crimes. He communicated with an underage girl, leading to his arrest and subsequent trial.
He pleaded guilty to some charges, and after a lengthy legal process, for grooming and sexual activity with the minor. He also faced other legal issues, including discovering inappropriate material on his computer.
Despite the legal proceedings, Johnson did not lose his England caps, contrary to initial reports. He served his prison sentence and attempted appeals, but they were unsuccessful. Video footage from prison revealed his discussions about the case and its impact on his life.
Johnson was eventually released in 2019 after serving half his sentence, ending a controversial chapter in his life and football career.
Adam Johnson’s Reaction
Following his arrest, Sunderland immediately suspended Johnson from the team. He missed two games but was later reinstated while on bail. Over the following 11 months, he played 28 games until his removal from the group on February 11, 2016.
Sunderland subsequently sacked him after pleading guilty to two of the four counts against him at trial. This conviction led to the termination of his Adidas endorsement and removing his likeness from the FIFA 16 video game by EA Sports.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce faced scrutiny for selecting Johnson during his bail, mainly as allegations emerged that the club knew documents suggesting Johnson’s acknowledgment of guilt in May 2015.
Allardyce, who had only joined the club in October 2015, claimed he was unaware of these documents and had always been informed that Johnson intended to plead not guilty. Sunderland released a statement supporting this position.
During the trial, Johnson asserted that he had confessed to Sunderland’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, on May 4, 2015.
However, Byrne, a former lawyer, did not testify. Sunderland’s supporters’ association sought to question her regarding her knowledge of the case.
Byrne resigned on March 8, 2016, expressing regret for her “serious mistake” but maintaining that she had not informed the club of Johnson’s admission and was unaware of his intention to plead guilty.
Johnson planned to appeal his conviction, as confirmed by his legal counsel. His sister, Faye, urged supporters to change their Facebook profile pictures to one featuring Johnson and his daughter, along with a slogan asserting his innocence.
She had established an online group advocating his innocence, which garnered 1,000 likes before being taken down after reports by users, including the child protection vigilantes Dark Justice.
Adam Johnson’s Personal Life
Johnson attended school and the academies of Sunderland and Middlesbrough alongside Dale Roberts, who pursued a career as a goalkeeper.
Sadly, Roberts took his own life on December 14, 2010, an event that Johnson would later describe as “the most devastating day of my life.”
Before his incarceration, Johnson resided in Castle Eden, County Durham. He has a daughter, born in January 2015, with his former partner, Stacey Flounders.
During his trial in February 2016, Flounders revealed their separation, citing Johnson’s admission of infidelity with other women.
While serving his prison sentence in 2017, Johnson sold his residence, Tollgate Lodge, for £1.7 million, with the property purchased by Durham and England cricketer Ben Stokes.
Upon his release, he returned to Castle Eden, where he had constructed a seven-bedroom home during his time behind bars. Furthermore, Johnson and Stacey Flounders welcomed their second child, a son born in July 2021.
Adam Johnson’s Honors
- Premier League: 2011–12
- FA Cup: 2010–11
- FA Community Shield: 2012
- Football League Cup runner-up: 2013–14
- Premier League Player of the Month: January 2014
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