Jozy Altidore - I wasn’t forced to leave Sunderland to return to the MLS

Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore

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FORMER Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore insists he was not forced out of the Stadium of Light in the January transfer window.

Altidore’s hopes of resurrecting his career with new club Toronto FC will begin next month, when the new MLS season gets underway.

The 25-year-old, who Sunderland swapped for Jermain Defoe, was always likely to leave the Black Cats last month after a miserable 18 month spell on Wearside where he managed just one Premier League goal.

French side Lille and Bundesliga outfits Werder Bremen and Stuttgart were both keeping tabs on Altidore, albeit Sunderland didn’t receive a concrete offer from any of those suitors.

But Altidore said it was his choice to join Toronto, where he has landed a bumper five-year contract with the Canadian club.

Altidore said: “There were a lot of options.

“People were saying I was forced to Toronto or something like that. I just thought at this point in my life it was something that I was ready to do.

“I was ready for the public opinion and backlash. The project they have here excited me the most.”

Altidore still believes that the departure of former Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio, after just six games of last season, was a contributory factor in his miserable spell on Wearside.

Di Canio, along with ex-director of football Roberto Di Fanti, had been responsible for bringing Altidore from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar for £7million, yet the striker was immediately having to impress a new head coach in Gus Poyet.

“The hardest part about Sunderland was that there was an idea when I joined the club and an expectation,” added Altidore to the Toronto Sun.

“But that got thrown out the window after a month.”

“The people suffering most were the fans. It wasn’t a fun time for anyone.”