Two months ago Adam Johnson acknowledged that he had "totally given up on" the idea of travelling to Brazil this summer as part of England's World Cup squad.
It seemed far from a case of false modesty. After all, only one month ago the winger found himself struggling to secure a regular starting place in Sunderland's first team as he strove to persuade Gus Poyet he could be trusted.
If seven goals in the last seven games helped win his club's manager over, the quality of his performances in the past four weeks have also jogged Roy Hodgson's memory. "I'd given up on the World Cup but now I'm not so sure," said Johnson in the wake of Sunderland's 3-0 win at Newcastle last Saturday.
A clear beneficiary of Poyet's possession-based passing philosophy, he looks supremely comfortable on the right hand side of the midfield quartet in the Uruguayan's hallmark 4-1-4-1 formation.
It helps his cause that, under Poyet, Sunderland no longer sit deep and hope to undo opponents on the counterattack – their key tactic under Martin O'Neill, the manager who brought Johnson back to his native Wearside from Manchester City for £10m in the summer of 2012.
"Gus Poyet likes his team playing higher up the pitch and he likes to get attacking players on the ball," said the 26-year-old. "That system suits wingers better. A lot of the time in the past I had to run 70 yards with the ball just to get into a dangerous position. Now I'm much fresher."
Very much the crowd's whipping boy under O'Neill and then, after a brief renaissance, Paolo Di Canio, Johnson was also arguably a scapegoat. "Too often in the past Adam was given the ball and expected to do everything all on his own," said Poyet.
"Jonno needs to play for a team that passes the ball and gives it to him at the right time when he has space to break forward into. He can't just go into any system and just play. We need to understand when we should use Adam and in which areas of the field.
"There are plenty of things my team have had to learn and understand in order to take advantage of his ability. Slowly we are getting there. In the last month Johnno has been on another level – and that was the level we were missing."
Poyet had worked with Johnson during his days as Dennis Wise's assistant at Leeds where the winger was on loan from Middlesbrough. Such shared history possibly made it easier for the pair to be candid when Sunderland's manager pulled his then £10m underachiever aside for a watershed chat in December.
The theme was responsibility, shared responsibility. "We talked," said Poyet. "I explained part of the responsibility for his performances was with Adam and a part of it was the way we played as a team."
With both men sticking to their side of the bargain – not to mention Sunderland's squad increasingly grasping and buying into Poyet's purist mantra – a side that had seemed doomed to relegation have reached the Capital One Cup final and harbour strong premier League survival hopes.
This revival has featured some wonderful cameos from their primarily left-footed right sider. Against Newcastle there were fine crosses and subtle changes of pace. There was the extremely clever flicked pass between two defenders that prefaced the opening penalty, the predatory turn and finish required to score the second goal and a thrilling dribble beyond three markers before Johnson curled a shot against a post.
It recalled the promise of his youth at Middlesbrough where many suspected Johnson's more traditional repertoire of tricks would ultimately see his career eclipse that of his fellow leftie Stewart Downing. Yet with the older, more experienced, stylistically more modern Downing keeping him out of the first team for long periods, Johnson's Teesside induction often proved frustratingly slow.
Toughened up by loan stints at Leeds and Watford he eventually established himself in Boro's first XI following Downing's departure to Aston Villa but the step up from the Championship to City following a £7m move four years ago proved tough.
The identity crisis that left Johnson unsure whether he was a fluid, flexible winger or a more amorphous, between-the-lines creator, hardly helped. Neither did the endless hours on the bench, or a lively social life.
Johnson's fondness for a night out partly precipitated Roberto Mancini's loss of faith in him. Yet the apparent lack of fitness that characterised his first season at Sunderland may have been as much about starting too few games down the years as a reportedly less than uber-professional lifestyle.
Meeting Di Canio provoked an epiphany. For all his man-managerial faults, O'Neill's successor turned Johnson into an infinitely fitter, appreciably more disciplined player who lost an impressive amount of body fat after stepping out of what he termed "my comfort zone".
His body sorted, Poyet is busy attending to Johnson's brain. Come June, Hodgson could be a big beneficiary.