GUS POYET believes Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has been since arriving at Sunderland more than a year ago.
Altidore was a late substitute in Sunderland’s opening day draw at West Brom, in his first competitive outing since a hamstring injury brought a premature end to his participation at the summer’s World Cup.
The USA international is still making his way back to full fitness after his pre-season was limited to a 30-minute run-out in Sunderland’s final friendly against Udinese.
Altidore knows himself that his participation in the early weeks of the season is likely to be limited to a substitute’s role, as he looks to regain match sharpness.
However, even when Altidore is up to speed, the 24-year-old faces the challenge of ousting fellow strikers Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham from the starting XI.
Altidore is not daunted by the fight for places though, while Sunderland boss Poyet insists the Black Cats need several options up front.
Poyet says Altidore has also now grasped what is expected of him in Sunderland’s strategy and as a result, the £7million man is far more content after a miserable opening campaign at the Stadium of Light.
“The idea is always to have options,” Poyet told the Echo.
“We talk about Fletch and Connor, but I can say that I’ve never seen Jozy as happy as now.
“I’ve got no explanation for that.
“But he looks really happy and knows everything that is going to happen and why.
“I think last year, unfortunately for all of us, there were too many doubts because of the way we started.
“Now he knows where he’s standing, knows he’s started later and knows he cannot play 90 minutes right now.
“He knows the importance of maybe the last half-hour for us. Hopefully then we’ll see the Jozy of the last five games (of last season).
“That’s great for us. He knows his role in the team for the next month.”
Altidore netted just one Premier League goal last season after joining Sunderland from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
But the American told the Echo last week how he was looking to start afresh with Sunderland this time around.
“The first year was difficult but it is out of the way now, we stayed up and now it is a new start for everybody and you just have to try to affect the game every time you play,” he said.