Sunderland not advised that Adam Johnson would change pleas to guilty

Sunderland have said they would have sacked Adam Johnson immediately had they known that he would change his pleas to guilty on two counts of child sex offences.

The club, who terminated his contract after he pleaded guilty, issued a statement in which they denied in the "strongest possible terms" being aware that he would do so.

The 28-year-old initially refuted all claims against him before altering two pleas, on claims of sexual activity and grooming a 15-year-old girl, to guilty on the first day of his trail. He denied two more serious counts of sexual activity with a child.

On Wednesday, Johnson was found guilty of one charge of sexual activity with a child by a jury at Bradford Crown Court and not guilty on a second charge.

Sunderland's statement said: "The club did not give evidence either for the prosecution or the defence in this case.

"It was therefore not present in court when it is understood that a suggestion was made that the club knew all along that Mr Johnson was intending to change his plea just before trial to enable him to continue to play football for the club, and that the club may also have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea.

"This is utterly without foundation and is refuted in the strongest possible terms. The club never placed any pressure or demands on Mr Johnson to play football during this process.

"Mr. Johnson has admitted in evidence that he changed his plea on legal advice. The club only became aware of the change of plea, in relation to two of the four counts on the indictment, on the first day of the trial, after hearing it reported through the media.

"The club was not advised in advance that Mr. Johnson would plead guilty to any offence. Had the club known that Mr. Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately.

The statement said that "upon learning of the guilty plea... the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson's contract without notice."

Sunderland sacked Johnson on Feb. 11, shortly after his guilty plea on the two charges had been entered.