Adam Johnson has urged Jozy Altidore to channel the spirit of Kevin Phillips and get selfish in order to hit the Black Cats goal trail.
The Sunderland striker was outstanding at St James’ Park but missed a clear-cut second-half chance that seemed to sum up his travails in front of goal in a red and white shirt. The forward has the backing of his manager and team-mates, though, and will get another chance to shine against former club Hull City tomorrow.
Johnson says that while Altidore has carved himself a reputation as an unselfish team player, there will be a large part of him disappointed not to have added his name to the scoresheet on Tyneside last weekend. He said: “Jozy is a striker and will want to score goals – there’s nothing wrong in that. He will be disappointed not to have scored when the team has won 3-0. Ask any forward that question and they will all say the same thing, but he was one of the main reasons why we won so convincingly.
“I watched a programme recently on Kevin Phillips and they asked him the question: ‘Were you always disappointed if the team has won and you haven’t scored? He gave an honest answer and said yes.
“I think any top striker has got to have that element in them and Kevin was obviously a great finisher.
“He was disappointed when he came off the pitch without scoring a goal and I’m sure Jozy is the same. It is a good trait to have.
“Phillips went lots of games without scoring in his career and all strikers go through these sort of spells, even the best. It is all about if you are playing well. If you are playing well and creating chances for others then that’s what it is all about.
“It is when you are not playing well or scoring that you have to worry. Creating chances for other players is so important and as a team it doesn’t really matter, as long as we are winning.”
Sunderland’s superb form has been recognised by the Premier League, who have nominated Gus Poyet and Johnson for manager of the month and player of the month respectively.
That is a reflection on an excellent month for the Black Cats that has seen them climb away from the drop zone while also making it to the Capital One Cup final after a dramatic defeat of Manchester United over two legs.
The rehabilitation of Altidore, who was linked with a move away from Sunderland over the January transfer window, is typical of the sort of transformations that Poyet has been able to inspire in his squad.
He said: “All the staff have given us so much confidence and you can see it in Jozy. He is the type of character you need at this club.
“There is a lot more to him than goals. Against Newcastle he must have been a nightmare to play against. Genuinely, I thought he was awesome. If you play like that as a striker but you don’t score goals, to be honest it doesn’t really matter because the amount of chances he created for us, his team-mates and his workrate, tells its own story.
“He pushed and pulled the Newcastle centre-halves all over the place and showed power, strength and pace.
“He was unplayable at times and his performance was outstanding. I said to him, ‘If you keep playing like that, getting into great positions and playing well then the goals will come. It is when you are not playing well that the goals never happen and you won’t score.”
Meanwhile, Poyet has hinted that he may hand Ignacio Scocco a chance in Saturday’s game against Hull. “As soon as I have a chance, I am going to give him time,” he confirmed.