Lee Johnson: Promotion would just be one step back to where Sunderland belong
Lee Johnson has warned Sunderland promotion from League One would only be the start of the journey back to where they believe they belong.
The Black Cats face Lincoln in the first leg of their play-off semi-final on Wednesday evening desperate to end a three-year stay in the third tier having slipped from the Premier League and then the Sky Bet Championship in successive seasons.
However, making it back to the Sky Bet Championship would represent only a step along the way in new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ blueprint for the club.
Head coach Johnson said: “It’s a huge club and obviously I’m very grateful to be one of the custodians, if you like, in playing a small part, hopefully, in a lot of success.
“You can feel that, you can feel what needs to be done – and by the way, we are nowhere near finished. Even if we were to be successful and be promoted in these play-offs, there is so much work to be done everywhere.
“The culture has got to improve, the detail has got to improve, every part of the football club needs to be driven forward.
“But there are great people here and that’s really important to say when there are great people who passionately care about the football club, and if we’ve got the backing of the fans, I’ve said before we can really move mountains and be as successful as we believe we can be with the right effort.”
Louis-Dreyfus, the son of former Marseille owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus, completed his takeover in February and, although the 23-year-old Swiss has big plans for the club, he is not exerting any additional pressure on Johnson, who had been appointed three months earlier.
He said: “He’s put no undue pressure on anybody right from the start as he walked in because the play-offs can be a lottery.
“You’ve got to turn the odds in your favour by having good players, by having your team set up right, by ticking all the boxes.
“But we all know how a football match, particularly a one-game final, can be very, very difficult depending on what goes on during the game. We’ve got 12 days as of Wednesday to really maximise this dream that we all want.”
Lincoln will be roared on by a crowd of more than 3,000 at the LNER Stadium and striker Anthony Scully cannot wait to run out in front of them once again.
He told Lincolnshire Live: “I can’t wait to have fans back. My debut here, against Rotherham, we had 10,000 fans here and the atmosphere was absolutely electric.
“Just to have 3,000 here will be brilliant. The lads who haven’t experienced it will have a great experience on Wednesday.
“We know the positives that the Lincoln fans can bring and that is only going to help us in a positive way. Hopefully they can give us that extra little push.”