GUSTAVO POYET is ready to help Adam Johnson refocus on this Sunday’s Capital One Cup final regardless of whether the Sunderland winger finds himself in the England squad announced today.
Johnson has given himself a fighting chance of a place at this summer’s World Cup with a string of fine performances at club level.
His form has increased the chances of ending an international exile that will have reached two years in August.
But talk of him being in contention has raised his hopes ahead of this Sunday’s final with Manchester City at Wembley, although Roy Hodgson could deliver an untimely blow before the showpiece.
Hodgson is this afternoon due to reveal a 30-man squad to face Denmark next Wednesday and if Johnson misses out then he thinks his latest hopes for a World Cup spot will have disappeared.
Similarly, though, if the Easington-born winger was included then he could find himself with a huge confidence boost during his preparations for the final. Either way Poyet will be keeping an eye.
“I don’t think Adam is thinking about that yet,” said Poyet. “If we win the final and he is man of the match I expect him to be in the squad in the future. But I haven’t thought about how it could affect him. I will try to help him either way before the final.”
Competition for the wing roles in the England squad is high, with the excellent form of Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Southampton’s Adam Lallana serious competition for the likes of Johnson and Andros Townsend.
If Johnson does not make it in today’s squad to face Denmark then his only hope will be to maintain the improved form he has been showing for the remainder of the campaign and force his way in late for a call-up to face Peru on May 30.
That is likely to be a squad centred around a pool of players Hodgson will take to Brazil, with the June friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras effectively World Cup warm-ups.
Johnson is not even thinking about matches later down the line and feels this latest squad could be his last chance saloon.
The 26-year-old said: “I've thought about it a little bit more recently. It all depends on this next squad. If you're going to have a chance of going, you're going to have to be there or thereabouts in this one.
“I've got to take each week as it comes because it's all a bit up in the air at the moment. There's that many players to choose from, and people in and out of form or injured. There's a long way to go, and a lot of things that can still happen.
“As an England player, you're always going to have half an eye on a World Cup in Brazil. It's all been down to my form really, and everyone talking about me again.
“I've always thought that it would be great to go to the World Cup, and this is probably the closest I've been to being back involved with the squad again. That's great.
“Last year, with not playing and being a bit low, I was concentrating more with getting back to playing my best here rather than concentrating on something that was probably far way away at the time. Now, it's amazing how things change so quickly in football.”
Johnson could be supplying Steven Fletcher with goalscoring opportunities at Wembley. The Scotland international has returned to training and is available as things stand to face City.
But one player not going to be involved in Sunderland’s cup final squad will be Connor Wickham.
The 20-year-old striker has been allowed to join Leeds United on loan until the end of the season after being told he will not figure this weekend.
Wickham has been involved in recent weeks after being recalled from his loan at Sheffield Wednesday. There has also been interest in him from Middlesbrough.
Poyet has options of Jozy Altidore, Ignacio Scocco, Fabio Borini and fit-again Fletcher to lead the line at Wembley. After informing Wickham he will not be involved, the 20-year-old has agreed to head out on loan again.
He scored eight goals in 11 appearances for Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season, including against Leeds in the Owls' 6-0 win.
* Spaces for this weekend’s screening of the Capital One Cup final at the Stadium of Light have now sold out.
The match will be screened throughout the stadium’s suites and bars this Sunday and more than 3,000 Black Cats fans booked their place.
Fans attending the screening are advised that doors will open from 10am on the morning of the game, which kicks off at 2pm. Drinks promotions and betting facilities will be available and matchday programmes are on sale priced at £7.