WHEN Adam Johnson joined Manchester City he was accused of chasing the money and harming his career.
Then when he left the Etihad Stadium there were still those criticising him for walking away from a chance to win more silverware at one of the richest clubs in the world.
But Johnson would do it all over again, even if the return to his native North-East with Sunderland has taken him longer than he would have liked to find top gear.
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Tomorrow he will find himself back at Wembley, the scene of his first major honour as a professional footballer, looking to stun many of the team-mates who share his memories of winning the FA Cup with Manchester City in 2011.
That success arrived 15 months after his £8m move from Middlesbrough and laid the foundations for a Premier League title triumph the following year, as well as Community Shield celebrations in the summer of 2012 before departing.
"I loved it there to be honest,” said Johnson, who played a game of round of golf with many of his City team-mates like Joleon Lescott and James Milner just recently.
“It's a great club and but for the circumstances I would still be there now. I think looking back, you want to win medals and I did that there. I would not change anything. Looking back, I would still have signed and would do it again.”
There was a disagreement between Johnson and Roberto Mancini over the amount of game time he got in the Premier League, while the Italian boss regularly criticised his work-rate.
All combined it led to Johnson accepting Steve Bruce's pursuit of him in August 2012 and he headed home, knowing his family were strong Sunderland fans.
“Yes, I was disappointed the way it ended,” said Johnson. “I wanted to go and play more games. At City I was not asking to play every week - I knew I couldn't - I just asked to play one in four. It was as simple as that.
“I did not mind playing once every couple of weeks. It just wasn't a fair share. I was not expecting to play every minute of every game, like a Sergio Aguero, and I always knew that. It was just more the fact that it wasn't getting shared around enough.
“So I wanted to play somewhere I could play week in, week out and feel more loved. With a different manager, who knows? All I wanted was for everyone to be treated the same.”
Mancini has since gone and led Turkish club Galatasaray to a 1-1 draw in the midweek Champions League encounter with Chelsea in Istanbul. It will be Manuel Pellegrini plotting a way for Manchester City to overcome Sunderland tomorrow.
Just because City are the clear favourites to lift their first of a possible four trophies this season, Johnson does not think it will be as straight-forward as that.
"In football, one minute you're struggling and then it can all change,” said the winger. “In recent months, we have improved. We had to improve or we'd have been long gone by now.
“The Capital One Cup run has given us a massive lift with our league form. It's a great day out for everyone and we are all looking forward to it.
“City have the best squad in the league by far so it is going to be difficult but we have beaten them once already this season and in recent years had quite a good record against them.
“Hopefully, it will be like that again although we all know it is a massive, massive task. But it is a cup final and so many times over the years, it is not always as simple as how everyone expects it to go.”
Having had that burst of seven goals in seven games prior to the back-to-back defeats to Hull City and Arsenal, Johnson will be one of the men Pellegrini will aim to keep quiet at Wembley.
Given the circumstances of his reunion with his old club in such a high profile fixture, it is easy to assume he will be going in to the match with a point to prove.
"I don't know about that,” he said. “It's been a while since I left City. Regardless of who you are playing, you want to prove something in a cup final whether you are the best player in the world or it is your first final.
“You want to be the best player on the pitch or the best you can be and I am not different whether it is against City or anyone else.
"If we win, it will probably be my best achievement especially the way the season has gone for us here. Obviously, beating City would be the highlight of my career at Sunderland.
“When I was at City, we won trophies but it was half-expected. Here, no-one really gives us a chance to win anything. So to bring the Cup back would be massive."