VALENTIN ROBERGE believes he is now better prepared to succeed in the Premier League after a bedding-in period at the Stadium of Light.
Summer signing Roberge made his first start since October in Boxing Day’s victory at Everton after Wes Brown’s suspension and John O’Shea’s shoulder injury forced Gus Poyet to change his central defensive partnership.
The 27-year-old and fellow Bosman arrival Modibo Diakite have played second fiddle to the former Manchester United pair under Poyet after both featured prominently under ex-head coach Paolo Di Canio.
But that time out of the side has given Roberge and Diakite the chance to settle on Wearside, with the duo both looking far more assured than earlier in the season, after helping Sunderland record a third successive Premier League clean sheet.
Roberge told the Echo: “It’s difficult to adapt to English football.
“The Premier League is different, but at the same time I really enjoy it here. I wanted to play in a new country.
“It was hard at first because the football is a lot faster and you need to concentrate more.
“In the first few months, there was a lot of information and I had to apply myself.
“I’ve found it hard to get chances because the defence has been performing well.
“But I knew that there would be a game when I was needed to help the team.
“Modibo hadn’t played for a long time, while it has been more than a month for me.
“It’s not easy to keep sharp when you’re not playing games.
“But I think for our first game together in three months, we were solid.”
Brown has another two games to run on his suspension, while captain O’Shea remains a major doubt to feature at managerless Cardiff today.
And while the pair are on the sidelines, Roberge is determined to make the most of his opportunity.
The former Maritimo man said: “Wes and John have played some very good matches. It’s obviously the manager’s decision over who plays.
“But everyone has to be ready to play.
“We need to get Sunderland out of this situation as quickly as possible.
“While I’m in the team, I’ll give everything because the most important thing is the team.”
A first away victory of the season gave basement boys Sunderland a massive boost in the battle to beat the drop and Roberge knows another success on the road today would give the Black Cats real momentum.
“It’s an important game at Cardiff,” he added.
“We need to have the same mentality and see if we can get another three points.
“These matches are the important ones.
“We can’t keep losing against the sides around us in the table.
“If we could get another win, it would be a massive boost in the table.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ve got to keep pressing to get wins.”