Sunderland under pressure to explain what they knew leading up to the Adam Johnson trial

Ian Payne

Former Sports Correspondent

Sunderland Football Club are still under pressure to explain exactly what they knew and when leading up to the Adam Johnson trial.

The Police have raised the stakes again today by holding a series of media interviews in which they re-iterated that they informed Sunderland's Chief Executive Margaret Byrne of their investigation almost exactly a year ago, in March 2015.

Sunderland don't deny this and immediately suspended the player at the time but reinstated him after taking advice from lawyers and also the Footballers Union, the PFA.

They claim the player told them he was innocent, and would be pleading not guilty to all the charges. They sacked him only at the start of his trial when he pleaded guilty to two charges.

But Sunderland and Byrne still have to answer one key question: Did they know he'd admitted his guilt? Because, during the trial, Johnson's lawyer claimed Byrne had seen police interviews last May which showed Johnson admitting he'd kissed his 15 year old victim and sent sexually suggestive messages.

If that's true, then the club knew he'd admitted two of the charges. And if that's true, why wasn't he suspended or sacked last May?

Sunderland have already stated they won't be commenting on the issue any more, but if they keep quiet, that suspicion won't go away, however much they hope it does.

Johnson remained on the club's books earning £60,000 a week. You could say it's the £3 million question?