In Jozy’s defence: ‘man on a mission to man on an island’

Like this, says Jake
Like this, says Jake

Salut! Sunderland welcomes a new contributor, Grant Tunkel*, an American journalist drawn to SAFC by the signing of Jozy Altidore. Altidore gets a lot of stick. Some of this, M Salut, feels, is unfair given the thankless role he often plays and the pitiful service he receives. What is difficult to overlook, however, is that he is a striker who doesn’t score and that, to put it mildly, is a serious defect. For his first piece, Grant reflects on the big man’s form and offers some encouragement. California Dreaming is a first thought as generic title for his offerings and, as is our custom with practitioners of other forms of English, the Americanisms remain. NB: ‘behoove’, a verb seen here for the first time, has impeccable Old English origins . …

With kickoff Saturday
at the Stadium of Light came a golden opportunity for Jozy Altidore.

The United States international seemed poised to build off one of his better performances of the season, as was Sunderland itself, after the red and whites’ derby drubbing of Newcastle a week earlier.

Momentum was squarely on Wearside heading into Saturday’s visit of Hull City. For Altidore, it provided a chance for a bit of redemption as well; the striker could break his scoring drought against his former employers.

But three minutes in, everything changed. Wes Brown was sent off for a last-ditch tackle after a Phil Bardsley giveaway. Sunderland were reduced to 10 men.

In a flash, Altidore went from a man on a mission to a man on an island. He and the Black Cats were soon behind and couldn’t recover.

That’s not to say that Altidore didn’t do his part.

As the lone man up top, with little forward support underneath, he nearly helped Sunderland equalize in the 44th minute. Altidore controlled right before the break and made a quick pass, which eventually led to Adam Johnson’s volleyed attempt on goal. Hull City keeper Steve Harper — a Newcastle man, it’s worth mentioning (but despite the pantomime booing, a Sunderland fan growing up – ed) – made the save, but it was SAFC’s first real threat toward goal.

After the break, both Altidore and the Cats seemed reinvigorated. A quick long ball from Vito Mannone in the 49th minute found its way to Altidore after the American used his physicality to win possession. Sunderland were unable to make much of the opportunity, but it was the type of play from Jozy that has been lacking this season, and an encouraging sign nonetheless.

Roughly five minutes later, John O’Shea’s nifty bit of footwork helped the ball find its way to Altidore, who set up Ki for a shot. The ball was deflected for a corner and the ensuing kick never amounted to much, but again, it was Altidore control and distribution that eventually gave Sunderland a breath of life.

With momentum on their side, the Black Cats seemed poised to chase an equalizer until Nikica Jelavic sealed the Tigers’ victory with a 62nd-minute header.

After Jelavic’s goal, Sunderland never truly threatened and Altidore was left to chase against a defensive-minded side.

Connor Wickham’s addition in the latter stages, which gave Sunderland a pair of strikers, was unable to spur the home side onward. When the final whistle blew, it was a defeat and a drop to 17th in the table rather than a third straight victory and a move upward.

So that leaves Altidore and Sunderland on the brink of the drop zone yet again heading into a midweek fixture against title-chasers Manchester City at The Etihad.

The American was a 77th-minute substitute in the November meeting at the Stadium of Light, which saw Sunderland secure a 1-0 victory. Altidore is likely to be a starter on Feb 12, but it would behoove him to leave the controlling and distributing duties to Ki and Liam Bridcutt in the midfield and make himself available in scoring areas.

On this day, however, Altidore did all he could to help Sunderland in an untenable situation.

Grant Tunkel
Grant Tunkel

Grant Tunkel: I’m a play-by-play broadcaster and multimedia journalist. As a broadcaster, I have called games for seven years at the professional and collegiate levels. As a journalist, I’ve covered stories ranging from the hiring of Lane Kiffin as the head football coach at the University of Southern California to the appointment of Jose Gomez as Archbishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Sunderland is my adopted team. My website is

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6 thoughts on “In Jozy’s defence: ‘man on a mission to man on an island’”

  1. Christ no Joan!

    The problem (well one of several that he has), is the fact that he never ever attacks space in the final third, Crosses come into the 6 yard box. Where is JA? Ambling towards the edge of the D,. He is never (and I mean never), on the end of anything. He’s rubbish. I’ve seen enough of it to recognise it at a thousand yards.

    Mind you I can see why he avoids getting on the end of anything after witnessing his effort at rounding Krul in the Mags game. We’ve got 12 year olds in my lads team that would have put that away no problem. He’s rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.

    Poyet will start with Wickham against Man City. If he doesn’t then he needs a slap.

  2. In the last few games (well preceding the Hull game at least where he was completely hopeless in my opinion), he had started to use his size and strength to some effect. This was something that we had seen precious little of since he arrived.

    You can recast his performances any which way you want but the stark reality is that a striker is there to score goals. If he knocks in 15-20 goals a season nobody would give a nun’s chuff if he wasn’t bothering to out muscle defenders.

    He might be a nice lad, generous to strangers and takes grapes round for his Grandma but this isn’t a popularity contest. He is on $2.2M per year doing this job, which a blind man on a galloping horse and even Altidore’s staunchest proponent can see that he simply isn’t up to the job. He’s been consistently shocking. The biggest problem he has is not a lack of confidence but a complete absence of even understanding what he should be doing, let alone being able to execute it.

    Blame a lack of service, and poor performances earlier in the season all you want. The simplest answer is usually the right one. Try using the example of Occam’s Razor if you want to know what’s wrong here.

    • I agree he’s had several opportunities for (near) tap-ins and hasn’t taken any of them. Is there not a good role for him playing slightly behind someone who can finish better – like Borini? I may be clutching at straws – especially as I know nowt (translation -‘nothing’) about tactics and may be talking rubbish (‘trash’)

      Nice article Grant, by the way. I love the word ‘behoove’. We should bring it back into UK English

  3. We’ll never know but I wonder how Altidore’s season would have gone if his goal against Arsenal had been allowed to stand.

  4. I met Jozy when he played for Hull. I have relatives in the States and my cousin came over to Hull for a visit. He had started taking an interest in Hull City when they reached the Premier League and he could get the games streamed live in Columbus, Ohio, where he lives.
    Jozy Altidore signing for his favourite English team was a dream come true and plans were made to see his adopted Tigers and Jozy in the flesh,
    He had contacted Jozy somehow and unbeknown to me the two had arranged to meet at Hull’s training ground.
    I took my cousin along and it looked as though Jozy had forgotten about the arrangements but we hung around. As the players were driving away, Jozy suddenly stopped and made a bee line for my cousin and they met like long lost pals. Jozy gave him a signed shirt, a training shirt and a bag full of other bits.
    He could have so easily have driven straight past us.
    The game my cousin saw was a 0-0 draw at the KC with Blackburn. The next game was at Arsenal and it was way out of my cousins budget to attend. Jozy asked if he was going, and when told the story he offered to pay for him and his travel down.
    Nice touch I thought.
    A decent bloke who deserves a couple of tap-in’s to boost his confidence.

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