Adam Johnson has told his Sunderland team-mates that they must be strong enough to accept the direct criticism of manager Paolo Di Canio.
The England winger has benefited from the appointment of the Italian last season, but the confrontational style of Di Canio has drawn some criticism. There has been a suggestion that the Italian’s outspoken approach might undermine a squad of players still to win a Premier League game this season and Johnson warned: “You just have to accept he is the manager and get on with it. It depends on which type of player you are, I suppose, and how you take it.
“It could kill players’ confidence but with other players it could inspire them. It is all about how you take it, really. You might not even listen to it. You have to just get on with it and go with the manager’s ways.
“We have seen a few games where it has really worked. In others it hasn’t, so he has to just stick with it. We need to do the best we can and start to pick up some points – and deal with criticism.
“My biggest critic is myself. By my age you don’t need your dad to tell you – and if you do, I think you’re struggling, to be fair. You just know when you’ve done well.
“There are always times when a manager is not happy – throughout your career, whoever you are with. It’s definitely harder when you’re a young lad coming through. They are obviously easy targets. That’s how you learn.
“Some of my younger days at Boro, it happened. You learn the hard way as a young lad. You probably get more criticism because they want you to learn. That will always stand you in better stead for the future.
“You know when you’ve not done well, but getting told is still getting told. From quite a young age I always knew how I’d played. I was always disappointed with myself if I’d not done well. You learn to deal with it when you get older and forget about it quicker, focus on the next game.
“You are disappointed when you’re back home after a poor game. Some nights you tend to go over the game again and again in your head. I’ve learned it’s about the next game now. The sooner you forget the last game the better. You can’t really dwell on the past.”
Today Sunderland face an Arsenal side that will include Mesut Ozil, making his Premier League debut. Johnson played against the German in the European Under-21 Championships final in 2009, which England lost 4-0.
“I just remember the Germans being a good team, they very well organised,” he said. “They were all good players, not just Ozil. All of them were very strong. There was not one particular star, but he has gone on to do great things.
“I’m really quite surprised he decided to leave Real Madrid; he still had a lot to offer there.”