Jan Kirchhoff is aiming to quickly find his rhythm after a frustrating start to the season – as in-form Sunderland’s campaign gathers momentum.
The 26-year-old has endured a stop-start season after suffering two hamstring injuries, the latest keeping him out for seven weeks.
Fit-again Kirchhoff and fellow half-time sub Seb Larsson played a key role in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Leicester City.
Kirchhoff’s header from Larsson’s corner was bundled into his own net by Robert Huth to give Sunderland the lead, which Jermain Defoe doubled.
Shinji Okazaki scored for the Foxes, but Sunderland held on.
Kirchhoff is relishing his return as he looks to win back his first-team spot. “It has not been a nice situation to sit out of the team and to have problems twice already this year,” Kirchhoff told the Echo.
“I haven’t found my rhythm so far and that is something I need to improve and work on.
“It is not about the players, it is about the club. Our task is to support our team and give the best we can to be a successful football club.
“The guys on the pitch did a great job, Jason [Denayer] was magnificent in central midfield and Didier Ndong and Steven Pienaar too.
“The gaffer decides who plays, it is up to us to bring the best performance that we can.”
Kirchhoff was pleased to make his return alongside Larsson, who was making his first appearance since summer knee surgery,
“I have trained hard the past couple of weeks. We are ready to play from the beginning or to come on from the bench,” added Kirchhoff.
“That is our job, it was nothing special or wonderful. It was nice that it worked out this way and we could help the team win.”
Ahead of this Saturday’s trip to basement side Swansea City, Sunderland are now a point from safety after wins over Bournemouth, Hull City and Leicester City.
“We have been close to winning our games all season,” added Kirchhoff.
“To have this self-confidence and being sure in your mind that you are strong enough to win a game.
“We have come out of our depression and our bad time and we have started to wake up and are now getting performances on the pitch.”
Kirchhoff says Sunderland have proved there is nothing to fear after turning their season around.
“When you see the quality of the squad, the kind of player we have, we should be able to stay in the league,” added Kirchhoff.
“There are at least three other clubs who aren’t as good as us.
“We are good enough to win against a lot of teams in this league. We shouldn’t be insecure or frightened.
“For sure, we have momentum on our side but we are good enough to play like this. It was not lucky that we beat Leicester, it was the strength we had in the squad.
“Swansea is a big chance to get out of the bottom three.”
On the opening goal, and with tongue firmly in cheek, Kirchhoff – whose initial header was going well wide before Huth intervened – added: “I think that was my first goal!
“It was lucky, I just tried to hit the ball towards goal and it took a serious deflection.
“It went in so that was the main thing,” added Kirchhoff, who has never scored a professional goal.