Sam Allardyce admits it’s a “massive decision” over when to throw Jan Kirchhoff into the starting XI after holding his hands up over the centre-half’s debut.
January signing Kirchhoff has featured in two behind-closed-doors friendlies in as many weeks after a miserable Sunderland bow in the 4-1 Premier League defeat at Tottenham.
The German’s lack of fitness was brutally exposed at White Hart Lane after he had featured for just two minutes for former club Bayern Munich this season.
Allardyce accepts the blame for throwing Kirchhoff into Premier League action, but says the question of when to reintroduce the £750,000 capture is a taxing one.
“It’s a massive decision,” he said.
“I made the wrong decision throwing Kirchhoff in at Tottenham.
“No doubt about that.
“He didn’t lose us the game though.
“Fatigue lost us the game after the week we’d had.
“Everybody else tried to blame him, and he had a part to play because he gave the penalty away, but the fatigue kicked in from playing three away games in eight days.
“That’s why I made the changes.
“Had I made better changes, we may have got a better result.
“But I had to make those decisions because you could see that the energy was draining away and there were more and more spaces opening up for Tottenham.
“I tried to block those spaces and didn’t manage it.”
While Sunderland’s taxing schedule over the festive period took its toll at Tottenham, Allardyce has been delighted with the improvement in the Black Cats’ fitness levels in general over recent weeks.
Only Seb Larsson and Younes Kaboul – both on the verge of returning to the fold – have encounter sustained periods on the treatment table.
But Allardyce’s regret is that Sunderland’s better conditioning has not prompted a sufficient upturn in results.
“The lads are trying their hardest and our fitness levels have increased massively,” added Allardyce.
“Our injury record over this period of time is fabulous.
“Everyone has knuckled down and we can measure the increases of what we’ve done.
“We’ve brought in new policies and new ideas, and changed all our protocols behind the scenes.
“That has helped with the fitness and the recovery levels, and we’ve done a magnificent job in keeping the players fit to be selected.
“But our increase of fitness have not reaped the rewards we hoped they would.
“Changing the way we train and the staff’s approach to the players has given us the chance to achieve more results, but we haven’t done that. We had a fragile spell against Bournemouth (last weekend) but our actual stats and physical output was fantastic – one of the best we’ve achieved this season.
“That shows there’s a determination and level of desire to get us out of trouble.”