SUNDERLAND striker Jozy Altidore is confident he can put a disappointing first season at the Stadium of Light behind him at this summer’s World Cup – and he has the backing of USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Altidore arrived on Wearside in a £6.5m deal from AZ Alkmaar, but despite boasting an impressive scoring record in the Dutch Eredivisie, he managed to net just twice in his first season back in the Premier League.
Altidore spent the majority of the season in the starting XI under Paolo Di Canio and then Gus Poyet, but the American lost his place in the final few weeks of the season to the resurgent Connor Wickham.
His two goals this season – against League One side MK Dons and Chelsea – took his record in English football to a disappointing four goals in 69 appearances with Sunderland and Hull City. Such form has cast doubt over his long term future with the Black Cats, but good performances at the World Cup could put him back in the frame under Poyet.
While he has struggled to make an impact on the Premier League, Altidore’s international form hasn’t suffered. The 24-year-old bagged four goals in seven appearances for his country over the past 12 months and he is confident his barren spell for Sunderland will not be an issue going into the World Cup in Brazil.
“Sometimes it just goes like that — there is no other way to put it,” Altidore said speaking at the USA’s training camp in California.
“Sometimes you just don’t have that streak that you need. You have got to understand it’s going to get better, and it will. It always does.
“When it comes to the World Cup, the season is behind you. Everything that matters now is what you do going forward when [Klinsmann] picks that team. Nobody cares about what you did a year or two or three years ago. It’s what you do now.
“You are going to go through tough times. In a career in soccer, a lot of it is mental. You have to stay strong at the tough moments because there are going to be a lot of them.
“It was tricky but it was also good to sit back and see what I could do better. I feel like I improved even though I wasn’t in the team. The bigger picture is we stayed in the Premier League.”
The USA have one of the toughest groups at this summer’s tournament with Germany, Portugal and Ghana completing the make-up of Group G.
Altidore will hope his struggles at club level do not affect his chances of starting America’s opening game against Ghana on June 16, but the striker has the support of head coach Klinsmann.
“We believe that Jozy can [have] a very big World Cup,” the former Germany striker said. “Obviously he has to work the next couple of weeks to confirm our trust, which we think he will absolutely do.”
Meanwhile, Black Cats boss Gus Poyet has revealed Steven Fletcher has put off his summer holiday in order to complete his recovery from injury.
Fletcher missed the final few months of the season because of an ankle injury and to ensure he is fully fit when the Black Cats return to pre-season training in July, Poyet revealed the Scotland international is staying behind while his team-mates fly off on holiday.
“He's doing well but before he goes on holiday he's booked in for at least two weeks' daily training. Only when he's fully recovered will he go away,” Poyet said.
Fletcher found the net just three times last season due to a string of injury problems, and is keen to make up for lost time next term.
Poyet added: “He's making good progress. He's been out for a while but we expect him to make a full recovery without any problems.”