Jozy Altidore has reassured Sunderland fans that he is a better player now than in his first spell in the Premier League.
While at Villarreal, the USA international striker spent a year on loan in the top flight with Hull City in 2009-10 but scored just one league goal in 28 outings. And his farewell appearance for the Tigers saw him sent off against Sunderland at the KC Stadium for headbutting Scottish defender Alan Hutton.
But after a successful two-year sojourn in Holland with AZ Alkmaar – which included a 31-goal haul last season – Altidore (left) made a ï¿½6.5m move to Sunderland this summer, and insists he will return to England a much improved player second time around.
“I think I just became a better player in Holland than the one when I was at Hull,” said the 23-year-old.
“On and off the ball and linking up with the players around me, I just got better. It’s that simple. I’ve become a much more confident player since then.
“The two leagues are completely different, but we’re trying to play football which looks good and hopefully I can score some goals.” With Danny Graham leaving Wearside to join newly-promoted Hull on a season-long loan, Altidore is a valuable addition to new head coach Paolo Di Canio’s squad.
And with Steven Fletcher expected to miss the opening few weeks of the season as he continues his recovery from ankle ligament surgery, Altidore will begin the campaign as Sunderland’s first-choice attacking option.
Meanwhile, Sunderland have allowed teenage goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to join League Two Burton Albion on a season-long youth loan. The Black Cats also allowed Ben Wilson to leave at the end of his contract in the summer, but Di Canio is evidently convinced that two goalkeepers – Republic of Ireland Keiren Westwood and summer buy from Arsenal Vito Mannone – is sufficient to see him through the Premier League campaign.
And he can at least recall 19-year-old Pickford at any time if either of his senior men pick up an injury.
Pickford spent the second half of the 2011-12 season on loan at Darlington, and also spent two months on loan at Alfreton Town earlier this year, keeping five clean sheets in 12 games for the Conference side. Burton manager Gary Rowett said: “Jordan is a player of undoubted ability who I know is regarded very highly by the coaches at the Stadium of Light.
“He’s a player with great potential and in him and Dean Lyness we now have two talented young keepers.
“It’s a position that requires a lot of consideration and I believe Jordan has the attributes and temperament to be a really valuable addition to the squad.”