VALENTIN ROBERGE insists he still wants to prove his credentials at Sunderland, despite being a fringe figure during his first season at the Stadium of Light.
Defender Roberge started just nine games in his opening campaign with the Black Cats after arriving on a Bosman deal from Portugese outfit Maritimo 12 months ago.
There has been speculation this summer about interest from France and Spain in Roberge, while Sunderland have been on the look-out for a new centre-half themselves.
But Roberge was under no illusions about the challenge that faced him when he joined Sunderland and is not looking to move on to new pastures.
When asked whether he had contemplated leaving, the Frenchman told the Echo: “No, I knew coming from Portugal that it wasn’t going to be easy to adapt.
“I could have made the easy decision and stayed in Portugal, but my dream was to try something different.
“The best things don’t always come too quickly.
“I played, I didn’t play, I played, I didn’t play.
“But I just had to stay strong in my head and work, prepare well for every game and show the manager what I could do.
“It’s the league that everyone wants to play in.
“Last year was good preparation for this year. I had to be patient, which was not easy.
“But it’s a new season and I just want to work hard and then see what happens.
“I hope to play more games this year.
“I don’t know what will happen with the manager’s decision.
“But all I can do is work, work, work.”
Roberge believes ex-Manchester United pair Wes Brown and John O’Shea have been the ideal role models to learn what is required in the Premier League.
Watching the duo has given Roberge an insight into the areas of his own game which he needs to improve upon to be a success in English football.
“They’ve both got so much experience,” he said.
“A lot of times last season, I just watched them.
“I’ve learned a lot and now I hope I can play more with them.
“There are obviously several things I need to improve in my game – physically and in the air.
“But I worked hard on them last season.
“I hope that I can continue to improve.”
Roberge returned to the UK late last night with the rest of the Sunderland squad after the club’s 10-day stint in Portugal.
“We did a lot of work, played a few matches and also got to know the new players,” he added.
“It’s all been positive.
“For me, the most important thing is to get more and more minutes every match.
“That way, we know that when the new season arrives, we will automatically find our fitness.”