Has any Sunderland player ever made such a poor first impression and then gone on to prove their quality as much as Jan Kirchhoff?
Think back to his nightmare debut at White Hart Lane, when he came on as a substitute with the score at 1-1. He looked all at sea; giving away a penalty and deflecting a shot past his own keeper, as Sunderland crashed to a 4-1 defeat.
However, a couple of weeks later on his first start for his new club, he was man-of-the-match against Manchester City and in every game he’s played since, he’s been one of Sunderland’s top performers.
Last week in the cauldron of a North-East derby, the occasion never looked like affecting him. It was just the opposite, he thrived in it, as for 60 minutes he was easily the best player on the pitch, before tiring in the latter stages and being subbed.
His weakness seems to be his stamina, as in most of his games when the clock gets to the 60 or 70 minute mark, he runs out of steam.
That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given his relative lack of football over the last 18 months, and another reason could be he’s playing in midfield and not where we thought he’d play after being brought to the club as a centre-half.
Playing as a central defender is all about anticipation and sensing danger, and you don’t often get a breather.
You certainly don’t cover the ground a midfielder has to, who has to constantly be involved.
If he can sort this problem out (and the more games he plays will help) then Kirchhoff could turn out to be one of Sunderland’s best ever value-for-money signings, as his transfer fee of £750,000 is ridiculously low these days for someone of his quality.