JOZY ALTIDORE has shrugged off his five-month goal-drought at Sunderland by claiming he is mentally prepared for the World Cup.
It should have helped ease the memory of a frustrating first season on Wearside when he managed just two goals in all competitions, but Altidore was adamant the woeful run had never affected him.
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The bullish 24-year-old said: “I felt fine before and I feel fine now. To be honest, it makes no difference. I don’t know if it’s weird to you, but it’s not weird to me.”
Across the Atlantic, there had been growing unease in the build up to the finals. Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad have become reliant on the powerful front-man’s international form in front of goal – he has 23 to his name – and they need him to fire.
And United States midfielder Michael Bradley, who was on the same US team at the World Cup four years ago, has leapt to Altidore’s defence after failing to justify the £6m price-tag Sunderland paid AZ Alkmaar for him last summer.
Bradley said: “It’s great for him to score some goals. This guy does so much at such a young age, he’s given our team so much on so many big days.
“You can’t help but laugh when he goes through a few games, he doesn’t get a goal or two, and people start to look and want to throw all the rest out of the window.
“Trust me, as a player, as somebody who’s been on the field with him on a lot of days, in a lot of big games, this is a guy you want on your team every single time.”
Altidore had gone 28 games without a goal but even during his drought at Sunderland he earned praise from a number of his team-mates after some of his displays last season.
After an impressive display in the Tyne-Wear derby victory at St James’ Park in February, Adam Johnson paid tribute to the former Hull striker for tormenting the Newcastle defence.
Whether or not the two players combine again next season is up in the air. While Sunderland are likely to listen to offers for Altidore, it has also emerged Everton have shown an interest in Johnson.
The former Middlesbrough and Manchester City winger is one of the highest paid players at the Stadium of Light and the Toffees hope Sunderland will allow the winger to head out for a season to allow Gustavo Poyet further funds to adjust his squad.