GUS Poyet has insisted that Jozy Altidore was NOT sent out to play with the kids on Monday night as a punishment.
The USA international striker’s stock has plummeted over the course of a season at the Stadium of Light in which he has scored only one league goal.
He was omitted altogether from Sunderland’s Capital One Cup final squad in March - something which was perceived at the time as an attempt by the head coach to spark a response from the forward.
But the 24-year-old striker’s season has not improved and Monday was a fresh low.
The USA international striker failed to appear on the squad list for Sunderland’s Premier League game against Spurs at White Hart Lane on Monday night.
His absence was a surprise but that was nothing in comparison to the shock when it emerged that instead of lining up against Spurs’ senior side, Altidore had instead been included in Kevin Ball’s Under 21 side playing Spurs’ youngsters at the Stadium of Light the same night.
The move could have been re will be going to regarded as potentially humiliating for a striker who is due to go to the World Cup this summer.
But Poyet said: “He’s a professional and I’m sure it was difficult for him - the Under 21 game was at the Stadium of Light and we were playing on the same night.
“But it wasn’t a punishment - there was a reason behind it.
“There were a few players who needed a game - Ondrej Celustka and company.
“It was all nicely prepared and it wasn’t for any other reason. It’s the sort of decision you have to make in this job.”
Sunderland’s first team lost 5-1 to Spurs on Monday, while Kevin Ball’s side emerged as 3-0 winners over Spurs U21s.
Altidore failed to net for the Development Squad but Martin Smith, Mikael Mandron and Charis Mavrias were on the scoresheet.