Sunderland’s Di Canio: I’ll make Altidore better

Jozy Altidore.
Jozy Altidore.
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PAOLO DI CANIO is confident he has the expertise to bring the best out of new £6million frontman Jozy Altidore.

 The American international enjoyed a promising Sunderland debut in Saturday’s defeat to Fulham, despite the Black Cats coming away empty-handed from the Premier League curtain raiser.

Head coach Di Canio believes Altidore, who spent a season on loan at Hull City as a teenager, has added a physical element to Sunderland’s attack.

But the former West Ham frontman says he is the perfect mentor to drag even more out of the 23-year-old.

“We need physical presence up front and Jozy gives us that,” said Di Canio.

“In the second half he was receiving the ball in the middle of the field and that’s good for us, that he was willing to come back and attack the space.

“We needed him to stretch their central defenders and there were signs that he can do that. He has energy and pace and youth.

“Jozy is good but he can improve and I can be a very good coach for him.

“We are here to improve and I’m sure the players will but they have to listen to me.

“Jozy is only 23 and is stronger than he was the last time he was in the Premier League, but he will get better.

“We are working on his movement and stretching defences, because otherwise he can become difficult.”

Altidore will continue to spearhead Sunderland’s attack while last season’s top scorer Steven Fletcher continues his rehabilitation from ankle ligament surgery.

But Di Canio has both Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won in reserve, with the Italian insisting that the latter has a part to play at the Stadium of Light.

Ji spent the second half of last season on loan at Bundesliga outfit Augsburg and Sunderland are thought to have rejected an offer of around £4million from Borussia Dortmund for the 22-year-old earlier this summer.

But Di Canio was impressed by Ji during pre-season and is keen for the South Korean to develop on Wearside, despite boasting just another year on his Sunderland contract.

“Ji is someone who I wanted to keep,” added Di Canio.

“We had a chance to sell him and you never know what’s going to happen because he has only one year left on his contract.

“But he is a very good player, especially when you counter-attack, he’s a real asset and scores good goals – you can see that in training.

“We lost some money from not selling him, but we will have good service from a very good, talented, player for us.”