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Altidore aims to become Sunderland's American poster boy
JOZY ALTIDORE became the latest American to arrive in the Premier League when he joined Sunderland earlier this summer. He may have already had a brief stint in England's top flight during a loan spell at Hull City, but as Steph Clark found out, the striker has set his sights on adding his name to the list of successful exports from across the Atlantic.
OVER the past few months, America has gone football crazy.
Television network NBC announced its schedule to air 69 Premier League games until December 1, giving Stateside supporters an opportunity to watch the top flight like never before.
Since then, NBC has embarked on a huge advertising campaign. Subway carriages in New York have been decked out in team colours with "Keep Calm and Pick A Side" emblazoned across them, while Hollywood actor Jason Sudeikis appeared in a TV ad posing as Tottenham manager Andre Villas Boas.
But perhaps above all, an image of Gareth Bale appeared on a huge billboard in New York's Times Square, which was followed by a poster reading 'Don't call it soccer' as the beautiful game looks to make a name for itself amongst the States' most popular leagues like the NFL and NBA.
Now, the North-East has a player who harbours dreams of following in Bale's footsteps and becoming the Premier League's American poster boy - Sunderland's Jozy Altidore.
The 23-year-old, who hails from Livingston, New Jersey, completed his £6m move from AZ Alkmaar last month and admits NBC's Premier League coverage suggests the English game is making waves Stateside.
"It just shows you the interest everyone has in the Premier League," said Altidore.
"I've played in a lot of places and everywhere the Premier League is always live. That's not like any other league. America love their sports. Football, Basketball and now the Premier League is going to be right up there.
"That says a lot about the league. It's exciting for me that my home country are going to be able to watch a lot of games.
"Hopefully I could have a billboard is Times Sqaure one day. It would be cool, but it just goes to show you how big the Premier League in becoming.
"I know what people always say about Americans and soccer, but it's huge in America. It's enormous. In terms of fans of the game it's probably one of the highest behind the NFL.
"The problem is they don't have clubs they want to go and see every weekend and that's something they're working on, but the game itself is very big.
"Brad (Friedel) did really well when he came and (Clint) Dempsey was the latest one and I would like to be another American that does well."
Altidore is one of ten players to arrive during a summer of change at the Stadium of Light and the striker admits the lure of working under Paolo Di Canio was a big factor in his decision to return to the Premier League.
He spent a season on loan at Hull City in the 2009, but he managed to score just once in 28 appearances.
However, after two seasons at Alkmaar, in which he bagged 38 goals in 67 appearances, Altidore insists he is a much improved player and hopes the Black Cats new style will provide him with ample opportunities to hit the back of the net.
"The director of football always had positive things to say about what the club is trying to do and the direction they're trying to take the club in - and the supporters, the stadium and everything else," Altidore explained. "It was nice for me because it's something I'm trying to do as well - to take the next step in my career. I think we both suited each other for the moment.
"I was told about the way the club is going to play, the way they're trying to do things and playing out from the back. It's easier said than done but it's the way that they want to play and for me, it's the way I find myself more successful. It was a good fit for both of us."
America's latest export may fancy a Times Square billboard sometime in the future, but Altidore is clearly one of football's good guys.
At 23, he has his own charity, The Jozy Altidore Foundation, which aims to benefit underprivileged children across America. Last year, the foundation completed a project to build a fresh water well in Haiti, where his parents originate from, after the 2010 earthquake that claimed 220,000 lives.
"I have my Foundation which I'm very passionate about," Altidore said. "My biggest focus was Haiti, which I focused on for the past year because of the disaster.
"I have kind of taken a break from that to come here. I have to focus a bit more on my football - things like getting acclimatised, getting a place to live, getting a car and getting used to being in England. That's my focus right now and then later on I'll try and shift my focus back to that.
"The next project is on the horizon, but at the moment it's all Sunderland."
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