Adam Johnson pleading guilty to child sex offences was a “massive shock” for Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.
The footballer, 28, has been told he faces jail after being found guilty of sexual activity with a girl aged 15.
He was playing for Sunderland until the start of his trial but was sacked after changing his pleas and admitting to two charges on the first day.
“It was a massive shock,” said Allardyce. “Justice has been done, he’s let everybody down.”
Johnson had denied all four charges he faced up until the start of his trial.
After admitting to two charges – one of grooming and one of sexual activity – he was found guilty of sexual touching, but not guilty on a charge relating to another sexual act.
However, the trial at Bradford Crown Court heard evidence that the club’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, met with Johnson and his barrister in May 2015 when he accepted he had kissed the girl and exchanged messages with her.
The jury was told that, before the case came to court, club bosses had seen all the 834 WhatsApp messages the pair sent to each other, along with transcripts of police interviews.
Sunderland denied they “knew all along that Mr Johnson was intending to change his plea just before trial to enable him to continue to play football for the club and that the club may also have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea”.
But Clare Phillipson, director of charity Wearside Women in Need, said: “They have given a statement but I think there are questions that are just not answered in that statement, around what Johnson said in court, about what they knew and when.”
Judge Jonathan Rose said his preliminary view was that the case falls into the category of a five-year prison sentence with a range of four to 10 years.
“It’s been very difficult to try and judge what’s actually been going on, because you want to know all the facts so you try and keep your cool until the judgement has been made,” said Allardyce.
“Now the judgement has been made, the decision has been made, we all feel extremely let down by what has happened and by what Adam has done and certainly feel a lot of sympathy for the victim and the family.
“Hopefully that has now given them some peace and they can get on with their lives and we can get on with our football. Whatever the punishment is, he has to accept that and we can all move on.”