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Ex-Sunderland player lifts lid on dressing room in the immediate wake of Adam Johnson conviction

The conviction of Adam Johnson for crimes committed against a child was the most unpleasant episode in the history of Sunderland AFC. One player who spent a year at the club during the arrest, trial and conviction of the former England international has been reflecting on the reaction of Johnson's former teammates at the Stadium of Light in the wake of his imprisonment.

In an interview in his native Sweden, former Sunderland loanee Ola Toivonen has lifted the lid on the reaction of the Black Cats squad to Adam Johnson's imprisonment in March 2016.

The former England international was jailed for six years after admitting to grooming and sexual activity with a child as the club was rocked by the biggest scandal in its history.

Toivonen spent nearly a year on Wearside after being signed on loan by Dick Advocaat in August 2015. The Swedish international only played 12 games for Sunderland but he was part of the Stadium of Light dressing room during an astonishing and unpleasant period of scandal, and subsequent fall-out.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League
Ola Toivonen during his Sunderland stint
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images

In the interview with Swedish TV presenter and sports journalist Olaf Lundh, Toivonen was asked how he reacted when he first heard the news of Johnson's guilty plea and reveals he initially learnt the full extent of the scandal from countryman Sebastian Larsson:

That was Seb who told me. Or I read before and asked Seb what really happened. We did not know what he [Johnson] had done - he had denied everything. So we only knew what the club knew.

But then when everything was laid out on the table there we were all very shocked. It was two, three days later when we really talked about it - then it was 'yes, it's sick this one'.

And on reflecting that just weeks before he was sent down Johnson had been a senior and regular member of the squad, Toivonen says it was difficult to reconcile the player who had been taking to the pitch with the man who was jailed in March last year:

He was one in the locker room with you. Suddenly he acknowledged something that he had previously denied and sentenced to imprisonment.

At the same time he was one of the guys from the dressing room as well, who had sat there and joked and told stories. He had won the Premier League and scored a penalty in a Newcastle derby, and a few months later he is sentenced to jail.

Finally, Toivonen reflects on the shock felt throughout the club:

We were shaken there in the dressing room because of what came out. Because he had denied it and they thought the club had taken care of it. But then all the cards turned and then it became strange.

Strange it certainly did become. Over a year since his conviction and the aftershocks from Johnson's crime continue to reverberate around the club. In truth only the passage of time will nullify the stench around the case and its lingering impact on Sunderland.

Sunderland Footballer Found Guilty Of Sexual Activity With A Child
Johnson's fall from grace and the fall-out from his trial have had a resounding impact on Sunderland AFC
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

For his part, Toivonen moved on from his disappointing stint on Wearside and has enjoyed a good season with French side Toulouse. Playing 35 games last term, the Swede scored 7 goals and provided 4 assists in the team which finished mid-table in Ligue 1.

Toivonen earned a recall to the Swedish national side on the back of his performances and hit the winning goal - a corker from the half-way line - in last night's victory over France in a World Cup Qualifier.

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