LEE JOHNSON was fully abreast of the developments that saw Kyril Louis-Dreyfus confirmed as Sunderland’s new majority shareholder on Christmas Eve, and has suggested that the transfer of power was one of the key reasons why he agreed to take over at the Stadium of Light.

The EFL are currently completing the process of ratifying Louis-Dreyfus’ replacement of Stewart Donald as the Black Cats’ majority owner, with the 22-year-old Swiss trust-fund magnate having agreed a deal to purchase the bulk of Donald’s shares.

The takeover was publicly confirmed at the end of last week, but has been in the offing for a number of months, with news of Louis-Dreyfus’ involvement alongside current shareholder Juan Sartori having first emerged in the autumn.

Johnson asked a series of questions about Sunderland’s ownership position before agreeing to succeed Phil Parkinson, and was satisfied with the answers he received. As a result, the developments of the last week-and-a-half did not come as a surprise to him.

“I did my due diligence before I came in,” said the Sunderland head coach. “That was very important for me. I’ve seen everything that’s been written about what’s going on, but it was really important that I did my own due diligence.

“I had to make sure that I didn’t get caught unaware of what may or may not have gone on. You would expect me, at my age and level, to have done my due diligence properly. All I will say on that is that I was very, very happy to join Sunderland based on that due diligence.”

While Johnson is not believed to have had a personal conversation with Louis-Dreyfus yet, he held a series of discussions with chief executive Jim Rodwell ahead of yesterday’s reopening of the transfer window.

With his side having slipped to 11th position as a result of their enforced inactivity due to Covid, Johnson is understandably keen to make some changes ahead of deadline-day.

He has identified a number of potential targets, and is confident he will be backed as he looks to improve his squad. However, with a number of Sunderland’s senior players due to become free agents at the end of the season, he also accepts he will have to be ready to deal with potential expressions of interest in some of his own players.

“The aim is to try to get better,” he said. “That’s something that we’re obviously looking to do. We’re in a position with the ownership where there’s not total clarity in terms of what we can and can’t do, so I think it’s about presenting the right option.

“We’re certainly on it, I can assure everybody of that. We’ve got very healthy lists and information to go with those lists, but at the same time, I’m really conscious of making sure that the group sits well with anybody who comes in.

“At the moment, we’re looking across the board. The situation is fluid in terms of what we’re having to deal with. It’s quite common knowledge that we have players out of contract (at the end of the season) so we’re susceptible to late and fast approaches for some of our players.

“We’ve got to be ready. It’s almost like a pre-mortem almost, where we’re ready for any eventuality – and I think we are. I don’t feel like we’re in a position where we won’t improve our squad. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

One player who will definitely be leaving this month is centre-half Morgan Feeney. The 21-year-old only signed a short-term deal when he joined as a free agent in August, having been released from Everton, and while he performed creditably at the start of the season before picking up an injury, he will not be offered a new contract.

“We’ve had a good chat with Morgan, and I think he will be an excellent signing for somebody,” said Johnson. “We just feel that with the strength in depth we’ve got in that particular position, Morgan’s at a time in his career where he really needs to be a big fish in a small sea.

“After some good conversations we decided it was best to let him get on and crack on with his career (at another club).”