Victor Anichebe was challenged pre-match by David Moyes to produce the same level of performance that blew away Bournemouth.
And the 28-year-old delivered in style, with his brace helping to sink fellow strugglers Hull City.
Anichebe’s signing is proving to be a shrewd piece of business by Sunderland, with the striker arriving on a free after deadline day had passed.
After missing pre-season, it has taken him a couple of months to build his fitness, but he is now reaping the rewards with three goals and an assist in two games.
Moyes admits that fan favourite Anichebe craves a “bit of love” and respect, well, he is currently getting both in spades – with his non-stop work-rate and hold-up play adding another dimension to Sunderland’s attack.
Not known for his goalscoring, Anichebe has been clinical in recent matches – with his two finishes against Hull proving too hot to handle for Tigers keeper David Marshall.
A beaming Moyes said: “When he came in, people were saying ‘Is Victor ready?’. He was getting ready, but he knew himself, and I think if you want to get Victor to play well he needs to be really on top of it.
“When he’s on top of it, he can be like he is just now.
“He was never quite, quite there.
“But I think he’s had confidence because I think the players like him – he’s settled in really well.
“You’ve got to remember, this is a boy who didn’t have a club. We brought him in after the window.
“I always thought he’s got something to offer. He’s a handful to play against – you wouldn’t like to play against him.
“I think the crowd have given him a real lift, they’re right behind him.
“He was doing extra training, working really hard. He had done no pre-season, so he had to put in all the extra graft. He’s a big unit, he’s got a lot of beef to carry about.
“So he has to work hard at it, he can’t afford to let his fitness down.
“But I think the bigger thing for him is, if you actually look at the 90 minutes, he’s now played three. Victor has never really been renowned for that.
“Psychologically and mentally, he’s in a good place because he’s realising ‘Hey, I can play this, I can run this distance, I can do what’s getting asked of me’, and we hope he continues.
“I think he needs a bit of love, I think he wants to be respected. He’s probably been to a lot of places where he’s maybe not.
“I’ve always respected him and he knows that, and I think that’s why he came to play here.
“It makes it a lot easier for him, but also I would like, and he likes, the people behind him.
“He’s that sort of boy and I think, at the moment, the crowd are enjoying having him as well.”
Moyes handed Anichebe his professional debut when the pair were at Everton together – Anichebe’s potential was always clear.
And the 53-year-old Scot hopes Anichebe can continue his new-found prolific streak and continue to ease the burden from top scorer Jermain Defoe’s shoulders.
“I always thought he had a great chance of being a powerful centre-forward, in a [Emile] Heskey sort of mode,” said Moyes, when asked how good he thought Anichebe could be when he broke through at Goodison Park a decade ago.
“Whatever you say, there’s lots of room for those type of players. Even now, there’s a lot of them going around.
“There’s times when some of his hold-up play could have been (Didier) Drogba-like, you know, he was so powerful.
“So we hope that he can keep that up.
“There’s still time for him, and maybe for some players it comes at different times in their careers. Victor could show that. I mean, look, he’s got three goals now and made the other one for us last week.
“If he could get us 10 goals, what a difference.
“Especially with (Fabio) Borini being out as well just now for us.
“If we get Borini back and Victor, and their adding a few more goals to the team, it just might look a little bit better.”