VALENTIN Roberge has apologised for “the moment of madness” which cost Sunderland dear against Fulham last weekend – and boss Paolo Di Canio says he will not hold it against the defender.
The debutant French centre-half failed to jump for Damien Duff’s right-wing corner in the 52nd minute of a match which was almost completely dominated by the Black Cats.
That left Fulham striker Pajtim Kasami free to head home the only goal of the game at the far post.
It condemned Sunderland to an opening-day defeat they did not deserve on the balance of play.
But Di Canio says the fact Roberge instantly accepted he had made a uncharacteristic error, was to his credit. “It was not a case of Roberge not having Premier League experience,” said the head coach.
“The young guy who scored for Fulham only had to move his body one yard, and there was not a challenge or even a push on him – it was too easy.
“In England, set plays are very important.
“You can play well all game, but you will still have to defend the ball in your box at times, and if you do not do it right then you will concede goals and lose matches.
“I spoke to Roberge about it and I said to him that if he is telling me it was a mistake, one crazy moment, then I accept that and we can forget it.
“But if you tell me: ‘this is how I mark my opponents’, then I have to worry!
“Look, it was a crazy moment and it cost us points, but it was just a mistake and we could all see that, so it is not an issue.
“I know it and Roberge knows it.
“Aside from that, his performance was very good – more than good.”
Although he will not hold the mistake against Roberge, it remains to be seen whether the ex-Maritimo man retains his place in the centre of defence for the trip to Southampton this Saturday.
Although the experienced Wes Brown is still short of full fitness after a strain, Modibo Diakite – expected to be a first-choice centre-half when fit – is approaching full fitness.
The former Lazio defender was on the bench against Fulham after Di Canio admitted he was still not 100 per cent fit.
But, after another week’s training, both he and Carlos Cuellar will come into the head coach’s reckoning as he selects the team he best believes can get a good result at St Mary’s.
He confirmed: “Wes is still not quite right, although he will start running again in the next few days.
“But I have other options at centre-back if I need them because Modibo Diakite and Carlos Cuellar are fit and were on the bench last weekend.”
Meanwhile, Di Canio is trying to be philosophical about last week’s reverse.
“We dominated the game, yet Fulham had one chance from the corner and won 1-0,” he mused.
“That was disappointing, but we will have days where we dominate and don’t win.
“I am not worried.
“The important thing is that we take our chances when we are on top.
“If we do that we will win games.”
At least Di Canio will head to the south coast boosted by more selection options, with midfielders Craig Gardner and David Vaughan both available again, after serving suspensions carried over from last season, while transfer target Charis Mavrias could well join in time to be involved.