Firstly, I want to clarify that these are views and my views alone. There are other writers at WMS and they may agree or disagree with me, privately or publicly. It’s a ramble. I don’t even know how articulate it is, but it’s how I feel and I wanted to get it down on paper so to speak. It’s been eating me away for over a year.
Sick to my stomach.
When Adam Johnson was arrested on child sex offences last March and subsequently charged, my gut feeling was that I didn’t want to see him in a red and white shirt until the end of his trial. I couldn’t enjoy games. I left one game, Southampton at home, when he appeared from the bench. It didn’t seem right to me. The severity of the charges meant I couldn’t accept that this man could play on for Sunderland during the course of the legal process.
Some will say ‘innocent until proven guilty’. I understand that. At times in the last year I’ve thought yeah, fair enough. The length of time between arrest, charge and then trial is so long there’s not a lot else the club could do. On the other hand, no. When I can’t celebrate a goal by a player in the team I love then there’s a problem. I spend the vast majority of my spare time involved with Sunderland AFC. They are my leisure time and my second love.
When Johnson created Jermain Defoe’s goal at Everton last season I sat unmoved, just as I did when he made his last notable contribution in our colours; that free kick at Liverpool. This disgusting human being saw it appropriate to throw his shirt into the fans that travelled to Anfield that day, safe in the knowledge he was to plead guilty to child sex offences just a few days later. People in that crowd would have cheered his name. Wished him luck. Kids too, just like the one he abused.
I did celebrate one of his goals. You’ll know which one. He ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of supporters that had been winding him up during the whole game. A celebration that said ‘yeah, that’ll show you’. He knew he was guilty then. Supreme arrogance. A man who happily laughed, joked, texted and admitted boredom as a judge pulled the ripcord on his existence as he knew it.
Our support has been compromised. It’s been compromised by Johnson and the football club. In my opinion, there is no good reason why Johnson couldn’t have been suspended on full pay and we could have avoided this conflict. Suspending him would not have been a condemnation of guilt. He needed to concentrate on this trial more than kicking a football about. People might say this is all in hindsight.Fair enough. I have expressed my concerns from the very start though. I feared this outcome and repercussions. Has it all been worth it?
Supporters were going to games and singing his name. You can’t blame them though. That’s what fans do, they stick up for their own. Those supporters have been let down by Johnson and, in my view, the football club. They’ll carry that stigma around with them, as fans of other clubs sing songs about peadophiles. Other people won’t disassociate our club with Johnson and we as fans, on the terraces, will have to put up with it for months. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. It makes me angry. I support the team that plays sex offenders.
Johnson was found guilty and we didn’t have to wait long for the statement so many of us wanted. Unfortunately it raised as many questions as it gave answers. It seems to confirm the suggestions made by Johnson’s QC yet skirt over the detail. The really important detail. The suggestions are that the Whatsapp transcripts were on the table. I know I wasn’t alone in recoiling as those messages were read out in court. If you sat there and read those messages, how on earth could you not take internal action? Suspending Johnson wouldn’t have affected anything. There’s also a lot of focus on the plea. To me that’s totally irrelevant. The facts were allegedly on the table and they were ignored and for who’s gain? Johnson certainly. He’s £3m better off.
Why aren’t we taking legal action? If the £1m compensation figure is correct then that’s enough to buy you a Jan Kirchhoff.
I understand that some fans may want to just accept the statement and move on. I appreciate that. It’s been incredibly hard and a lot of people would have put their faith in Johnson. They’ve been let down. The statement is an opportunity to mentally draw a line under it and move on. Fair enough. However, a friend of mine made an excellent point; Why are people happy to question the board on footballing matters like money spent, transfer dealings etc but not this? In my view, the football club still have questions to answer and these were detailed excellently by Louise Taylor in the Guardian. You can read that here.
This is a bit of a purge. A ramble. It’s been stewing away for a year. I feel ashamed of myself that I’ve got this far without mentioning the victim. She was a fan like you and I and her life has been ruined by this sexual predator. It’s absolutely horrific. I can’t imagine how she must be coping. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to see Johnson playing week in, week out and hearing people singing his name. She knew what had happened and so did he. He has taken us all for fools.
Shame will be the overriding emotion for a long while.
However, I’ll still be going to games and I’ll be supporting my team. I have no control over the actions of others. I wasn’t there when decisions were made on Johnson. I’m not going to let those factors out of my control change the way I support the eleven lads in red and white on Saturday. At the same time I refuse to accept the reasoning for Johnson’s continuing involvement as it stands and I hope the right people ask the right questions so we can hear the whole story because I don’t think anybody would listen to me. We have a right to know.
This is our football club and it always will be.