Huggins signed on a four year deal last week and can cover more than one base in the squad for the Black Cats. Competition for places is fierce at the Stadium of Light, but Johnson is happy to bring in versatile players as it allows him to distribute game time more effectively through the squad and provides sufficient depth to allow some to leave on loan.
Strengthening the fringes is important when trying to build a promotion push over 46 games and Sunderland have done that with the addition of Huggins.
Johnson said: “Niall can play both sides and he can also play in central midfield. You’re going to need that. Touch wood Luke O’Nien is okay but there again, you have more cover now we have these lads who can move and fill different spots.”
The manager is clearly feeling reassured in this quote, that despite the fitness concerns over a key player, O’Nien, Huggins’ addition softens the blow and gives Johnson tactical flexibility when rotating his squad.
Huggins is in a great position at Sunderland, with the security of a four year contract he can learn the ropes at Football League level with excellent role models in the form of O’Nien, Carl Winchester and Corry Evans crucial influencers in the first steps of his career in senior football.
Johnson understands that he is a long term project at the Stadium of Light and does not expect him to be ready to go straight into regular first team action.
The expectations on Wearside may be a little unforgiving for a younger player trying to establish themselves in the Football League, but it will stand him in good stead for hopefully playing on bigger stages in the future. It will be interesting to see how Johnson eases the 20-year-old into life in League One.