Kazenga LuaLua opens up about striker role, injury woe and silly mistakes hampering Sunderland survival bid

Kazenga LuaLua is happy to play up front and will do a '˜job' wherever Chris Coleman plays him as Sunderland bid to save their season.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 6:00 am
Kazenga Lua Lua (right) takes on Ipswich. Picture by Frank Reid

Sunderland are staring down the barrel of League One football next season unless they can overturn a five-point gap to safety in the remaining eight Championship games.

LuaLua, a winger by trade, is pushing for his first Sunderland start since signing a short-term deal in January.

The 27-year-old has been dogged by ankle problems since leaving Brighton and joining the Black Cats on a permanent deal.

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LuaLua is hoping to finally string a run of Sunderland games together and play his part in trying to keep the club in the second tier.

And he’s happy to play wherever Coleman chooses to play him.

With Middlesbrough loanee Ashley Fletcher struggling for form and confidence and yet to score, and teenage duo Josh Maja and Joel Asoro only scoring three goals between them so far, Coleman may yet turn to LuaLua up front as a last roll of the dice for the run-in.

LuaLua would relish the opportunity.

“It is the manager’s choice and wherever he puts you, you play, I’m happy to do it,” said LuaLua, when asked about playing up front.

“I’ve not played there too many times. I was always a winger at Brighton. but. wherever the manager puts me. I’ll do a job for the team.”

LuaLua has made four appearances since joining as a free agent, all of those coming from the bench against Birmingham City, Ipswich Town, Bristol City and Preston North End.

With his ankle problems hopefully behind him, the ex-Newcastle United youth is aiming to stay fit.

“I hope I can put a run together now, fingers crossed,” added LuaLua. “It has been really hard for me since I came here, I’ve had ankle issues.

“But I’ve trained for a few days now and feel fine after that game, so hopefully I can stay fit until the end of the season,” added LuaLua, who came on for the final 20 minutes in the 2-0 defeat to Preston North End last weekend.

Defeat left Sunderland five points from safety going into this weekend’s international break. Sunderland are not in action until they face promotion-hopefuls Derby County, fifth in the Championship, on Good Friday.

LuaLua admits that the situation facing Sunderland is ‘tough’ and has spoken of his frustration at the ongoing struggles on the pitch, with individual errors hampering the diminishing survival hopes.

He added: “It is very frustrating, every week is a silly mistake. In a league like this, it is especially important – the players are big and physical. You have to keep your focus and do your job for 90 minutes.

“It is hard to correct it, and it is not easy for me just to say we’ll bounce back.

“It is a tough place to be, you want to close the gap to two points, it is tough to take.”