GUSTAVO POYET has challenged misfiring striker Jozy Altidore to use Wembley woe as a way of kick-starting his Sunderland career ahead of a first team recall in the FA Cup tomorrow.
The excitement Altidore must have felt building up to his first cup final in English football was taken away last Sunday when he was completely omitted from the Black Cats’ match-day 18 to face Manchester City.
The American is determined to learn from the disappointment this week and Poyet is ready to give the player an immediate opportunity to prove it when he starts against Hull City.
Altidore has already been told he will be leading the line for Sunderland in the FA Cup quarter-final at the KC Stadium – and he knows a turnaround in fortunes in front of goal is exactly what is required.
Since his £6.5m move from AZ Alkmaar last summer he has scored just twice in 32 appearances, reminiscent of his loan spell at Hull in 2009-10 when he scored two in 30 outings.
Poyet said: “Jozy - it’s up to him. We saw it with Lee Cattermole. Lee’s playing on Sunday at Hull. Because of me? No, because of him. It’s that simple.
“I would like Jozy to do the same. He needs to say ‘I deserve to play on Sunday’ and if he does well enough, he will play against Crystal Palace and then Norwich. But because of him, not me. I’m not a charity.
“Here it depends on how you perform. I bought Liam Bridcutt to Sunderland, he’s my player but on Sunday it’s Lee Cattermole (playing). That’s what Jozy has to think.”
Rather than make a big deal out of his Wembley omission, Altidore chose to go down a different avenue. He described how ‘it is difficult’ for him at Sunderland because of the team’s poor form this season when he was on midweek duty with the United States for a friendly with Ukraine in Cyprus.
Poyet said: “His reaction to being left out was quiet. I’ve got nothing to say about anything, he was professional. It was probably a shock for him because he didn’t know. Only he knows how he felt inside.
“His comments? We can talk about too many things, how we play, the system we play, who is playing or not playing - at the end of the day we put plenty of effort in to get to him the club and we try to use him the best we can. We need him. It doesn’t matter what he said.”
In highlighting Cattermole’s situation for Altidore to draw comparisons with, Poyet was keen to stress the importance of the Stockton-born midfielder to his squad.
Cattermole almost left to join Stoke City on deadline day only for the £5m deal to break down at the last moment when the Uruguayan boss intervened.
The £2.5m arrival of Liam Bridcutt from Brighton increases the competition for the holding midfiled role which Poyet has tended to play. In Cattermole, though, Poyet believes he has a player worth retaining.
The Sunderland manager said: “It’s a good opportunity for me to talk about Lee - his performance against Manchester City shows why we kept him when he was so difficult on the final day of the transfer window.
“It showed the type of character he is and why he plays most of the time. It was a perfect example of a player who goes on the pitch and gives it everything. You need those types of player.
“It will be difficult for Liam, simple as that. You have to explain it to players and sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. You give players an opportunity to play and if they play well, they are back the following week.
“When Vito Mannone was man of the match the week after he played, when Wes Brown was the same he played. It will be the same. If we win it’s a team because you get the best performance of the players.”
Poyet, aware that around 4,000 fans will make the trip from Wearside, plans to make changes to the Sunderland team that lost out in the Capital One Cup final and it could mean Fabio Borini starting on the bench.
The Italian was impressive against City but, with next weekend’s crucial Premier League survival battle with Crystal Palace penciled in next, Poyet is considering all options - even if he was impressed with Borini.
“If you want to create personality in terms of how he comes into training every day, what time he’s out to train, how he prepares, how he trains, what he gives you - Fabio is the type of player you would like to have in your squad all the time, playing or not,” said Poyet.
“He was desperate to play up front. For some reason every time he played up front something went bad - the Hull game or other games where it didn’t happen - but he took his chance.
“In certain games when we have to play the way we played against City he can be very important to us. It will depend on the game, how we are playing. It was one of the best decisions we made in the final.”