JORDI GOMEZ has cited Gustavo Poyet’s preferred playing style as one of the key factors behind his decision to join Sunderland this summer.

Gomez will make his first appearance in a Black Cats shirt when the club kick off their pre-season programme at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park this afternoon with a friendly against Darlington.

The Spanish midfielder was approached by a number of clubs after his previous contract at Wigan Athletic expired, but opted to move to Sunderland ahead of the likes of Leicester City and Aston Villa.

Loading article content

The 29-year-old played with Swansea City before moving to Wigan, and claims Sunderland’s slick passing style was a key factor in his decision to move to the Stadium of Light.

“I wasn’t going to go to a team that plays long balls,” said Gomez. “I always want to play for a team where the manager plays a little bit more football, so I’m really happy to come here. The manager has similar ideas and the style is like we had at Swansea and Wigan.

“After Wigan, I really wanted to play in the Premier League again. I have the chance now, so I will take it. I spent one year in the Championship, and although we tried to get back the next season, we couldn’t.”

Gomez is one of three players to have moved to Wearside this summer – the other two, Costel Pantilimon and Billy Jones, are also expected to be involved against Darlington – but further signings are expected before the transfer window closes at the end of next month.

Uruguayan midfielder Cristian Rodriguez has emerged as a target, while sporting director Lee Congerton remains hopeful of re-signing Fabio Borini despite Liverpool refusing to reduce their £12m valuation of the Italian.

Poyet’s challenge will be to mould the new squad together, and Gomez admits it is hard to predict how long the settling down process will take.

“I don’t know if it will be difficult to gel or not,” said the Spaniard, who turned down offers to join both Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the past. “Sometimes that can take a long time, other times it just happens. But if you have good players, you have a very good chance of having a good season.”

Today’s friendly should mark the comeback appearance of Steven Fletcher, who was forced to sit out the final 11 games of last season after damaging his ankle ligaments in March’s goalless draw at Crystal Palace.

The Scotsman has played a full part in the opening two weeks of pre-season training, and is hoping for an injury-free campaign as he looks to get his career back on track.

“It would be nice to stay injury free for the full season, so touch wood that I can because last year was very frustrating,” said Fletcher. “It’s been a hard week, but I’m glad to be back and it’s good to be training again, especially because I was out for so long last season.

“It will be a tough match at Bishop Auckland because it is our first game back. We will have to ease ourselves into it and make sure we don’t fly in, but it should be a good test.”