Footballer “fears £60k weekly wage loss”


Adam Johnson trial: “Career fears led to delay of admission”

Image caption
The former Sunderland footballer was arrested in March last year

England footballer Adam Johnson has denied that a fear of losing his career and £60,000 per week salary prevented an earlier admission of grooming and kissing a 15-year-old girl.

The former Sunderland player denied all four charges against him but pleaded guilty to two offences on the first day the case was listed for trial.

Prosecutor Kate Blackwell QC accused him of “playing a game” with the court.

The 28-year-old denies two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

He was sacked by Sunderland after admitting the grooming and kissing offences, on 10 February.

Having been charged in April last year, Ms Blackwell suggested the winger”s delay in recording a guilty plea furthered the girl”s pain.

After being asked why he had not done so at an earlier hearing, Mr Johnson told the court: “It”s the advice I was given at the time and I went along with that.”

“I was panicking”

The jury had earlier heard Mr Johnson”s world was “turned upside down” when he was arrested.

Giving evidence, he said he “panicked” and was “in turmoil” during his police interview in March 2015.

In court, he admitted kissing the girl in his car but said he tried to “play it down”.

The trial has heard the pair exchanged telephone numbers and messages for a number of weeks before meeting in January 2015 to allow the winger to sign a Sunderland shirt for the girl.

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Adam Johnson began his defence on Monday

He described how WhatsApp messages became “flirty” and “inappropriate” before a second meeting on 30 January.

Mr Johnson admitted he did not always answer some police questions entirely truthfully.

He said: “My world had got turned upside down and I was trying to play it down as much as I could.”

When asked by Orlando Pownall QC, defending, about what state he was in during his first interview, Mr Johnson said: “I was panicking. I had all these thoughts going through my mind about everything. To name a couple, my career, my family, I was in turmoil.”

The player said he was “surprised” the teenage girl had told police that further sexual activity had taken place.

He said: “I couldn”t believe the things she was saying to police. I felt like someone else was telling her to say these things.”

Mr Johnson told the court he did not try to feel her breasts or put his hands underneath her t-shirt.

Born in Sunderland, Mr Johnson began his career at Middlesbrough before moving to Manchester City and then on to Sunderland for £10m in 2012.

The trial continues.