GUS POYET believes misfiring Jozy Altidore is ready to shine by telling the Sunderland striker that goals are just around the corner after an impressive contribution in the memorable Tyne-Wear derby win.
Altidore has struggled to live up to his £6m price-tag since his move from AZ Alkmaar last summer and there have even been suggestions his World Cup starting spot is under threat.
His only Premier League goal remains the one he hit in the 4-3 defeat to Chelsea in early December and the drought had affected the level of his performances.
But, despite failing to improve on that run at St James’ Park, Altidore was a constant menace to the Newcastle defence and his general output had a key part to play in Sunderland’s 3-0 win on Tyneside.
Not only did he flick Jack Colback in with a delightful pass during the build-up to Sunderland’s second goal scored by Adam Johnson, the powerful striker caused problems for Mike Williamson and the Newcastle backline throughout.
With greater confidence in front of goal, he is also likely to have converted a fantastic second half chance to add to the lead when he failed to round Tim Krul with just the Newcastle goalkeeper to beat.
But Altidore’s efforts brought praise from fans and team-mates alike and it did not go unnoticed by his manager either, even though many expect new attacking recruit Ignacio Scocco to slot in to the starting line-up sooner rather than later.
Poyet said: “Jozy had a magnificent game at Newcastle. I was so sad that he didn't score that chance. They practically gave it to him, but I said to him in the dressing room, 'Ah, now I like it. Now you know how important you are, and you can feel it’. If we keep winning, his goal is going to come. But his performance was one of the biggest and most important points for us against Newcastle.”
His lack of goals has also been noted across the Atlantic, with reports suggesting that he could lose his international place to the man who has been scoring more regularly since Altidore left AZ Alkmaar last summer.
Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson has scored 15 in 25 appearances for AZ in the Eredivisie after moving from Danish side Aarhus and is high in Jurgen Klinsmann’s thinking ahead of the World Cup finals in Brazil. At this stage, though, Klinsmann has been adamant Altidore will continue to lead the line for his country.
And Poyet thinks Sunderland fans – and Klinsmann – could be about to see the best off a 24-year-old whose record in front of goal in a Sunderland shirt does not reflect his form in Holland where he scored 38 goals in 59 league appearances.
Including his Capital One Cup goal against MK Dons in August, he has scored just twice in 1,175 minutes of football on Wearside, but has assisted for four goals.
Poyet believes Altidore deserves praise heaped on him for trying hard to stick to the team’s game-plan rather than act selfishly in a bid to turnaround his form in front of goal after making three consecutive starts.
Poyet said: “It's difficult. I know strikers. I played with a lot of strikers who were top scorers, and when they didn't score for a while, they would not pass the ball to you.
“They would shoot from anywhere because they wanted to score. He is not doing that, which is great and a credit to him. Somehow, we need to try to get him a goal. Maybe we need to beat the keeper and give it to him to tap in.”
The overall team display at St James’ Park meant back-to-back victories for Sunderland in the fight to avoid relegation to the Championship. The fact remains, though, that there are still only two points separating them from the bottom three ahead of the visit of Hull City this Saturday.
With tough league fixtures with Manchester City and Arsenal on the horizon, there is a need to ensure the improvement in results does not suddenly stop knowing the excitement of a Capital One Cup final at Wembley against City is already penciled in for March 2.
Defender Phil Bardsley is sure that will not happen. He said: “The boys are willing to throw their bodies on the line and run through brick walls for each other. That’s what it is all about at this club.
“As long as we continue doing that, there should be no reason why we don’t stay in this league.”