Just What Will It Take For Jozy To Wake Up?

Michael Regan

Altidore won't be convincing anyone at Sunderland that he's a good player any time soon, but he could - and should - be doing far more to show he wants to be.

Jozy Altidore, eh?

If anything, that name has become synonymous with Sunderland's horrible season. He was supposed to be better than he is, he just can't seem to find his feet, and he drives you absolutely bloody mad.

That's probably a large part of why he has taken on the scapegoat mantle with much of the support, but the bulk of it is that he simply hasn't produced anywhere near enough to ingratiate himself to a supporter base who frankly deserve much better.

But that isn't really what this is about. I think we all agree and accept that he alone has put himself in the firing line of the fans this season. He hasn't been good enough.

I can forgive him for that, though. Yeah, his touch will probably never be especially assured and there are drunk fathers dancing at weddings with more grace than the American. It doesn't mean he has to be quite as useless as he is proving to be, though.

There is almost a preoccupation with what he doesn't have in his locker, though. The thing that I just cant fathom about Jozy Altidore is just what it will take to really engage his head and make him wake up to exactly what he does have going for him, which is sheer size and strength.

I can fully accept him struggling to beat a grizzled Premier League defender with a bit of skill. I can fully accept a screwed finish or wayward pass. I can accept those about any player. But when I see Altidore bullied and effortlessly swatted off the ball by centre backs with no actual super-powers, that really rankles with me. There is just no excuse for it.

He isn't ever going to be a world-beater but being a real nuisance is fully within his grasp - easily within his grasp, I'd say. You know, the kind of player that can just plant his body under a cross and roll defenders off him whilst just being a really annoying pain in the backside without actually doing anything of merit.

The Premier League has seen plenty of those kinds of players before, and names like John Fashanu, Brian Deane and Kevin Davies spring to mind. It's not the most glamorous list of names you'll see, but they were all effective Premier league players in their own right who made solid, tangible contributions to their sides.

With Altidore you almost question whether he just doesn't want to be that kind of player and is desperately trying to be something else. As if his self-image and reality are at complete odds with each other.

I remember when he came on against Manchester United in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi final and Marcos Alonso, who was making his debut at the time, was gesturing to him to 'Hulk-up'. I genuinely think that's all I really ask of him too now.

I've defended him all season, to an extent, and I'm generally more patient than most with players. Given the general running theme of non-goalscoring strikers at the club over the last couple of years, I'm not quite as eager as most to write off the prospect of Altidore ever scoring goals.

But the other big criticism of his game - that he doesn't seem to want to succeed enough here and is just going through the motions hoping for a change of luck - will remain and be irrefutable so long as the desire he delivers on the pitch remains so far disproportionate to his physical presence.

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