Sunderland have gone into "bunker mode" over the handing of the Adam Johnson case

The Guardian's David Conn spoke to Off the Ball about the case

Sunderland have gone into "bunker mode" over the handing of the Adam Johnson case

Picture by: Peter Byrne / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sunderland's handling of the Adam Johnson case has come under heavy scrutiny since the England international was found guilty on two counts of sexual activity and one count of grooming a child last week. 

The Premier League club sacked Johnson last month the day after he pleaded guilty to two of the four counts brought against him. He continued to play for the club despite his initial arrest after a two-week suspension from the club. 

David Conn from The Guardian has written about the club's handling of the case in recent days. He told Off the Ball that the club have gone into "bunker mode" in the aftermath of Johnson's sacking. 

The club have come under pressure about a meeting that took place on May 4th last year in which Johnson, his father and his lawyer Orlando Pownall QC met with Sunderland's CEO Margaret Byrne. During the court case, it was claimed that Johnson told Byrne that he has kissed the girl.

Margaret Byrne is the current Chief Executive of Sunderland AFC. Picture by: Mike Egerton / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Byrne was subsequently handed transcripts of Johnson's police interviews along with the transcripts of the girl at the centre of the case.

Johnson was instrumental in Sunderland's Premier League survival last season. He was also a regular feature in the team this season until he was sacked by the club.  The 28-year-old scored in his last game for the club during a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

"(The club) obviously thought they had a defensible position if he was pleading not guilty. Because the QC has said that they knew that he admitted it. That puts the club in  much more uncomfortable position.

Conn says the Byrne has questions to answer over the club's handling of the situation. "It looks like a financially-driven, hard-nosed decision was made to play Adam Johnson if it could be legally justified... That is the question that is being screamed at her." 

Sunderland currently lie in 17th place. Their next Premier League game is at home to Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby on March 20th.