Winger has point to prove against former club in Capital One Cup final and says Gus Poyet's side will be free of expectation
Adam Johnson's point may need proving towards Roberto Mancini rather than Manuel Pellegrini, but Manchester City will still be aware of a Sunderland player with a cause in the Capital One Cup final.
Johnson was just one recent victim of City's excesses, with frustration over a lack of playing time cutting short his time at the club in 2012. Martin O'Neill swiftly made him a marquee signing, taking him to the Stadium of Light for £10m.
"I loved it at City," Johnson said. "It's a great club and but for the circumstances I would still be there now. You want to win medals and I did that there. Looking back, I would still have signed and would do it again.
"Yes, I was disappointed the way it ended. I wanted to go and play more games. I was not asking to play every week – I knew I couldn't – I just asked to play one in four. It was as simple as that. I did not mind playing once every couple of weeks. It just wasn't a fair share. I was not expecting to play every minute of every game and I always knew that. It was just more the fact that it wasn't getting shared around enough. So I wanted to play somewhere I could play week in, week out and feel more loved.
"With a different manager, who knows? I just wanted a little bit more game time. All I wanted was for everyone to be treated the same.
"I think the fans at every club I've been involved with have loved me, it's more the managers having the trust in me playing. It wasn't always there.
"Player after player after player was coming in and I was slowly going further and further backwards. That's what it's always going to be like at City, there's always going to be the next best thing coming in and I was going to get sold on again. It was always going to be a revolving door there, I think."
An element of reality was placed upon what had rapidly emerged into lauding of Johnson from certain quarters, from the England manager Roy Hodgson on Thursday. Hodgson has not deemed the Sunderland man worthy of a place in his 30-man squad for the upcoming friendly against Denmark which, by extension, means Johnson has a serious task on his hands to be named in England's party for this summer's World Cup. Given that Hodgson is hardly spoilt for choice, Johnson's omission despite seven goals in nine games was significant.
The reality is that recent history has taught us how Johnson's current burst of form could disappear just as quickly as it arrived. His prominence under Gus Poyet is no surprise, given Sunderland now have more players who display attacking intent than was previously the case. When Johnson was the sole creative force, he was identified as such by opposition managers and commonly double-marked out of games.
Still, it would only be wise to celebrate Johnson's touch for as long as it lasts. Poyet is due credit for bringing out the best in Johnson. "I think it's just down to hard work, not just for me personally but the team has been working on all sorts of things; shape, tactics, defending off the ball and just slowly putting piece by piece together," Johnson explained.
"Slowly that has started to show in our performances. We had the players so it was just about getting that out of us.
"I think the manager has got us playing together better as a team and when you're playing better as a team the individuals come into the game more. We have had the ball a lot more than we have done in the last probably eight months. Under the gaffer we have controlled matches more than we've been controlled."
As a north-east boy from a Sunderland-obsessed family, Johnson is perfectly aware of the historic significance of this final appearance. He also understands the contrasting emotions on each side.
"With City we were expected to win," he added. "With Sunderland this year we're not. The fans of City are wanting that success every year, without doubt. They're disappointed if they're not winning two and three trophies. At Sunderland it's been amazing for us to get to the final full stop after so long. I think the fans are delighted.
"I've seen texts and they're just delighted to be having a day out at Wembley. On the other hand, the City fans are expecting this now so it's different. It's a different sort of pressure.
"Having been on both sides of it, we're going there with nothing to lose. We can go and play with freedom and try and win the game. If City don't win the game it will be a massive failure for them, won't it?"