Wednesday 03 July 2013
After a favourable experience in Asia last summer, Sunderland winger Adam Johnson is looking forward to his first trip to Hong Kong, where he expects "fanatical supporters" to flock to the 2013 Barclays Asia Trophy and where players are "treated like kings".
Sunderland will take on Tottenham Hotspur at the Hong Kong Stadium in the Barclays Asia Trophy semi-finals on 24 July, before meeting Manchester City or South China on finals day three days later, and Johnson is already excited about the trip.
"It's always good getting to travel the world and seeing different places," he told premierleague.com. "When you look back on your career and you say, 'Yeah, I went there,' it's always nice to experience that. I've been fortunate to travel all over and this is one place I've never been. I get to say, 'I've been to Hong Kong.'"
"We get to see how fanatical the fans are out there"
Johnson signed for Sunderland from Manchester City in August and scored a memorable goal in his side's 3-0 away win over local rivals Newcastle United that helped keep Paolo Di Canio's side in the English top flight last season. Just before joining Sunderland, Johnson enjoyed a trip to the Far East with City and believes Barclays Premier League clubs should engage with supporters who follow them from overseas.
"It's massively important," he said. "The way the fans get on with you, they treat you as if you're a king - I mean it's a great feeling. A few of the lads' first time there they couldn't believe the welcome they were getting into hotels and things, so I'm really looking forward to it. It’s always good to go out to different places and see different things and I enjoy them.
"We've got to go to different parts of the world and different cultures and things and it's good for us - we get to see how fanatical the fans are out there. I was in China last year and Malaysia and it was just unbelievable the amount of fans [there were], how crazy they are about football, how much they love it and how much they know about you."
After finishing last season one place above the relegation zone Johnson is hoping that the fixture against Spurs and playing in Hong Kong, where the high temperatures and humidity will test the players' physical condition, will help Sunderland to start the new season in a more positive manner.
"It's good for us to play in the heat for our fitness and before the season starts and it's competitive as well, and that’s what you need in pre-season, so all aspects of it are really important," he said. "Going out there and playing against top teams as well can only do us good ahead of the start of the season.
"Pre-seasons have always been seen as a lot of hard work and a bit of a nightmare but when you get to go all over the world and get the lads together it's not too bad. It's always interesting to see the culture and how people are with us. We were talking about it the other day actually, the lads are really looking forward to going and experiencing it."
While Johnson would obviously like Sunderland to do well at the Barclays Asia Trophy he recognises that for the Black Cats the pre-season onus will be on fitness with Paolo Di Canio, the head coach who took over in March, a renowned devotee of physical training.
"It's going to be interesting," said the player who has 12 England caps. "Pre-season is going to be probably quite tough and a lot different to what we've been used to. Again it's all new sorts of things for us to look forward to and I know we’re going to come back really fit for the start of the season."
"They're just so excited to see us and be at one of the games and so it's obviously good to put on a good show for them"
For Johnson, the interaction Hong Kong's supporters is also something that appeals as a sold-out finals day on 27 July reflects the enormous popularity of the Barclays Premier League in East Asia. With tickets still available for the opening match against Tottenham the 25-year-old is hoping to entertain the locals, who will have a chance to get up close their heroes.
"The fans out there don’t get to see us that often in person so when they do it's nice for them and in my experience of tournaments the fans don't keep quiet the whole game," he said. "They're just so excited to see us and be at one of the games and so it’s obviously good to put on a good show for them.
"It's all a bit of fun after the end of the game and we get to go around and thank the fans and things like that. It’s just a nice sort of break from the seriousness of the Premier League."
Sunderland's players started their build-up to the new campaign when they began pre-season training at the Academy of Light on Wednesday. They will fly out to Italy on Sunday for a training camp, playing a match behind closed doors, ahead of the Barclays Asia Trophy which begins on 24 July.
Johnson was one of the players who on Wednesday unveiled Sunderland's new home shirt for the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season. The new strip, which features black shorts and black socks and will be worn at the Barclays Asia Trophy, is set to be launched on 25 July.
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