RICKY ALVAREZ will get the chance to make his mark in a Sunderland shirt, believes Black Cats coach Charlie Oatway.
Alvarez has made just three starts for Sunderland since arriving on a season-long loan from Inter Milan during the summer after being beset by injury problems.
The Argentine international spent two months on the sidelines with a knee problem, and has since been disrupted by a series of minor knocks – the latest of which saw him absent from the squad for last weekend’s defeat to Spurs.
Alvarez has shown flashes of his ability, primarily as a substitute, yet the lack of game-time has not helped in the 26-year-old’s bid to acclimatise to the Premier League.
But first-team coach Oatway continues to be impressed by Alvarez’s quality on the training field and says the opportunity will come for the midfielder to transfer that into a competitive environment.
“Ricky’s alright,” Oatway told the Echo.
“He had one day off with a slight ankle problem, but then he was back and fine.
“I think our game in the Premier League is so fast and hard.
“The first game he played, against Tottenham, was a bit of a culture shock for him.
“He got banged around everywhere, and we were under the cosh too, because they played brilliant that day.
“It’s been a learning curve for him, and he’s still adjusting.
“But it doesn’t look like he’s struggling in training. Every time I mark him, my cartilage goes!
“He’s a sharp boy. Sooner or later, we have to play him.”
Should Alvarez remain a peripheral figure in the first-team picture, then the chances will recede of Sunderland signing him on a permanent deal during the summer.
A clause was inserted into Alvarez’s loan from Inter, which allows Sunderland to sign him at the end of the season for a fee thought to be around £8.5m.