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Roker Roundup: Ex-Sunderland striker on leaving Wearside how he was ‘tapped up’ before he left

Jozy Altidore has spoken honestly about the circumstances around his Sunderland departure and how he was effectively ‘tapped up’ by Toronto, whilst a former Sam Allardyce transfer target has explained why he didn’t end up signing for us.

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Details emerge on Altidore move

Jozy Altidore had a very difficult Sunderland career, scoring only three goals in all competitions for the club and his most notable achievement being used in an exchange deal that saw Jermain Defoe arrive in the North East from Toronto.

Speaking about his time with Sunderland with the Toronto Sun, the American international striker said that he actually had off the field problems that impacted his performances on the pitch and even needed the club’s intervention at one point:

A lot of people don’t know, but I was going through a lot off the field in England, whether that was staying out of trouble [or with] relationships, it [spilled] into my soccer and it got to the point where the club had to intervene. And so my time at Sunderland, aside from the first two months, was really just bad in terms of off the field. Soccer was secondary. It’s something I really haven’t talked about. But it is what it is. It’s life. But looking back it now, it made me a stronger person.

That’s the toughest part to swallow. I wasn’t able to really go and give it my all there. I was just side-tracked by other things.

Toronto head coach Greg Vanney revealed that he travelled to a discreet pub in London to meet the striker back in November 2014, in the hopes of selling the move to Altidore:

Anytime you meet a professional footballer in London, people are going to know about it, people will see it, somebody is going to make comment of it and we just didn’t want it to be any sort of a scene. So it was in the basement, the underground portion of a pub, on a Sunday morning where nobody was going to be. And it was just the two of us, and we just chatted.

Altidore explained how Vanney convinced him to move to Toronto and how the duo discussed tactics ahead of a potential move:

It was this dive bar type of place, we went down some stairs. We were real discreet about it, obviously. And we just had a conversation and it turned out to be an hour and change.

We just kind of got lost talking tactics, and how he sees the game and life and Greg as a person, that’s what really changed me. It’s him, the way he operates, the way he thinks. I think we’re very similar. I left that meeting thinking, ‘Hmm. Maybe taking that route isn’t that bad.’ Greg gifted me an iPad 2 [with an enclosed message] which talked about so many things about Toronto. A lot of icons were [part of the presentation]. Drake was on there and I thought that was pretty cool. Already they were trying to sell me on a project that I wasn’t really thinking about. That meant a lot to me in the sense that this meant a lot to them.

I remember thinking obviously [Toronto] is a great city but I wasn’t ready to go on a team that lost every game but I liked the idea of trying to turn a franchise around that’s been historically not very good. And I liked the idea of being part of the reason why it turned around. And I thought there was a big reward there, a big gain in terms of coming and really re-writing the history. That was exciting.

Greg had his little notebook [at the pub] and he was just knocking out things. And I just thought, ‘Wow. This means a lot to him and them’. I left that meeting and while my mind wasn’t made up, I was definitely thinking, ‘This could be good. Why not them?’ It was just a great, honest meeting and I left it thinking, ‘Wow, playing for someone like that can for sure help me get better. It’s the right timing, maybe I can consider it.’ And so from that moment on, I started to consider playing in Toronto.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

O’Brien on Sunderland disappointment

Former Irish international Joey O’Brien has been discussing his career back in his native Ireland with Shamrock Rovers in an interview with the Times.

During the interview, the full-back told a story of how Sam Allardyce wanted to sign him for Sunderland after the 2015-16 season.

O’Brien says he was desperate to join Sunderland and West Ham United owner David Sullivan even green-lit the deal:

I said ‘look, my contract is running out. If you don’t let me go, give me a new deal’. For me it was a no-brainer, I had been there for five years, I had played games, they had got me on a free, decent value for money in the games I played in. The window closed and I still wasn’t in his plans, but he said to me ‘if you stay fit and are good around the camp you might not get the games you want but I will look after you come the end of the season with a new offer’. Two days before the end of the season he told that he was going to give me a deal.

Three weeks later I got an email from the club saying ‘thanks very much. See you after.’ That for me was a shock initially, but the reality of football is ‘get yourself going and get back out there.

West Ham United v FC Lusitans - UEFA Europa League Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images