Gus Poyet confident over Jozy Altidore's fitness - can he bounce back?

Jozy Altidore

Returning from a hamstring injury suffered during the USA's World Cup campaign, Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore is facing a crucial Premier League season.

After suffering a hamstring tear in the 23rd minute of the USA’s World Cup opener against Ghana, striker Jozy Altidore played no further part in the tournament and is still recovering in the States as Sunderland start pre-season training.

Manager Gus Poyet is confident however that the 24-year-old will be fit when he returns to Wearside later this month, looking to bounce back from a horror debut season with club.

"We know that hamstring injuries are tricky and that you have to be careful not to come back too quickly. Jozy deserves his holidays now," he said. "We have an agreement as to how many days he will have after finishing in the World Cup.

"I am sure, if nothing goes wrong, that when Jozy is back with us for pre-season he is going to be fit to start training without any problems."

Brought by Paolo Di Canio from Eredivisie’s AZ Alkmaar last summer for a £6 million sum, Altidore was roundly derided over the course of the season for scoring just once in 30 Premier League games.

Dropped from the side by the newly-arrived Poyet for the crucial final run-in as the Black Cats staged a dramatic escape from relegation, there were doubts about the American’s future at the club, following the impressive form of Connor Wickham and future return of injured Steven Fletcher, but he was quick to quash such rumours entering the off-season.

Nevertheless, having previously failed to impress in the Premier League during a 2009-10 loan spell with Hull City, the question remains whether the once highly-touted Altidore is up to the challenge of English football.

A young revelation in MLS upon bursting onto the scene in 2006 at 16 years old, Altidore would earn a $10 million move to La Liga’s Villarreal in June 2008 but struggled to find his footing in Spain with loans at Xerez, Hull and Buraspor over the next three seasons proving fruitless.

His breakthrough however would come upon signing with AZ in the summer of 2011, where he would score 51 times in 93 games during his two seasons with the Dutch side, his stellar goalscoring form seeing Sunderland come calling.

Now in danger of succumbing to the same fate as past Eredivisie flops Alfonso Alves and Mateja Kezman, Altidore is facing a crucial season, with his European reputation in the balance after the disastrous 2013/14.

Still relatively young, the American frontman undoubtedly has goals in him, with a commendable international record of 23 in 71 appearances, but, for all the talk of his outstanding pace, power and strength, he has failed to show the best of those attributes against more imposing defenders in England.

A prototypical number nine, Altidore’s hold-up play has always been admirable, much the same way as Emile Heskey’s often was, but, so far, those comparisons have only been used in mocking terms.

If the former New York Red Bulls prospect is to finally banish his ‘Dozy Altisnore’ nickname then the time is now or never, or he risks becoming just another often-referenced Premier League flop.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch