The Sunderland Echo is reporting that Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.
The comments come just four days after Sunderland’s season opening 2-2 draw with West Brom where Altidore came off the bench as an 81st minute substitute. Altidore’s introduction into the match helped spur the Black Cats’ attack and four minutes later they were level through a tidy Sebastian Larsson finish.
Altidore arrived back on Wearside following a difficult summer where his World Cup dreams were cut short after pulling up with a hamstring injury in the Ghana match. Since then the American has worked hard to gain his fitness back but, according to Poyet, still has some ways to go.
For Poyet, the upside is that he currently has three forwards – Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham and Altidore – all of whom he sees as capable of contributing. “The idea is always to have options,” Poyet said. “We talk about Fletch and Connor, but I can say that I’ve never seen Jozy as happy as now. I’ve got no explanation for that. But he looks really happy and knows everything that is going to happen and why.”
While Altidore recovers, Poyet plans on easing him into the attack through the role of super-sub. “[Jozy] knows where he’s standing, knows he’s started later and knows he cannot play 90 minutes right now. He knows the importance of maybe the last half-hour for us. Hopefully then we’ll see the Jozy of the last five games [of last season]. That’s great for us. He knows his role in the team for the next month.”
In this way, the hamstring injury could prove a blessing in disguise for Altidore, who heads into this season free from the pressure to produce that he may have felt last year as a high-profile transfer. Instead, the 24-year-old striker can now focus on improving his fitness, impacting matches and, eventually, winning back that starting spot.