Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill expresses concerns over international break


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The Independent Football

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill would prefer it if new signing Adam Johnson was staying on Wearside rather than heading off on England duty.

Indeed, for purely selfish reasons, the Ulsterman would rather none of his players were meeting up with their respective countries just weeks into the new season.

While delighted he has men of international calibre at his disposal, O'Neill, like most of his Barclays Premier League colleagues, will spent the next fortnight with his fingers crossed hoping that his big names return to the club healthy and ready to do battle against Liverpool on September 15.

He said: "I would prefer that nobody played during that break, but I am well aware that international football is predominantly very, very strong now. It takes precedence over almost everything at the moment.

"As a club manager, all you do is just worry for about a fortnight until the players come back.

"But from Adam's viewpoint and for all the other players called away, it's great. It's great to play for your country, fantastic.

"England particularly now are involved in the build-up, their main games now in the World Cup, and it's good that Adam is part of it.

"He deserved that. Regardless of whether he signed for us or not, he deserved that on his performance in the friendly game [against Italy], albeit it was a friendly match."

Johnson admitted following his arrival at Sunderland from Manchester City that he feared for his England career at the Etihad Stadium after missing out on last summer's Euro 2012 finals.

However, he was named in Roy Hodgson's squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine on Thursday.

He made an impressive debut for his new club in Tuesday night's 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Morecambe, during which he set up both goals for James McClean.

The winger made his first league appearance at Swansea on Saturday as fellow new signing Steven Fletcher announced his arrival in style with a double in a 2-2 draw.