Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has said that Adam Johnson's guilty plea to a child-sex charge came as a "massive shock" to him as he was under the impression the former England winger was pleading not guilty. The Premier League club sacked Johnson last month after he admitted at the beginning of his trial to kissing and grooming a 15-year-old girl.
The 28-year-old, who has played 12 times for England, is facing a lengthy jail term after being found guilty on 2 March of one count of sexual activity with a child while being cleared of another. During the trial, Johnson claimed he had admitted to the club on 4 May 2015 that he had kissed the teenager and sent her sexually explicit messages. Allardyce said he had no knowledge that the player was guilty and felt "let down" by his behaviour.
"I was aware of his plea for all charges to be not guilty, and on that basis he played and trained for the team if and when I selected him," Allardyce told reporters on 3 March.
"I think that when, or just before, the trial started, to hear that he had pleaded guilty was a massive shock to everybody at the football club. Which the football club took swift and direct action to dismiss him immediately so everybody in our dressing rooms, certainly me, and what little we knew, were shocked, shocked from that," he added.
Sunderland said in a statement on 3 March that they had been under the impression Johnson would plead not guilty to all four child sex offence charges against him. Sunderland suspended Johnson for two weeks immediately after his arrest on 2 March last year, but have been criticised for letting the 28-year-old keep playing until the weekend before his trial started on 6 February this year.