Manager Sam Allardyce has come in for criticism for his substitutions during his six-month tenure at the Stadium of Light.
But Allardyce’s changes in Sunderland’s crucial 3-0 win at Norwich on Saturday all paid off, particularly the decision to haul off £9million January signing Wahbi Khazri at the interval and introduce fit-again Duncan Watmore to the action.
Khazri was poor throughout the first half, with Watmore giving Sunderland far more of a threat on the counter-attack and eventually sealing the points for the Black Cats when he netted a third goal in stoppage time.
Allardyce said: “Khazri was not functioning as well as he has done. We had the Roadrunner (Watmore) back, and we needed his energy and ability.
“You could see what trouble he caused Norwich and I’m so glad he scored because he had so many chances or to make the right pass to Jermain (Defoe).
“It was a great finish in the end – cool, composed, around the keeper and in the net.
“Wahbi didn’t quite get to the level we know he can. We had people on the bench who came on and did a little better.”
Watmore sustained ankle ligament damage in February’s 2-2 draw at Liverpool, but returned to action three weeks ahead of schedule, with Allardyce pleased to have the services of the England Under-21 international again.
“When you see him out on that field, he doesn’t stop, he’s such high energy,” added Allardyce.
“He gives so much and with his ability, hopefully he can play a big part between now and the end of the season.”