GUS Poyet says Jozy Altidore has to accept that his season has not worked out as he would have hoped and instead concentrate on finishing it with a flourish.
The American was one of two big money signings – Emanuele Giaccherini was the other – made by former head coach Paolo Di Canio and director of football Roberto De Fanti last summer.
Sunderland paid Dutch side AZ Alkmaar £6.5m for a striker who had scored 33 goals in all competitions in the 2012-13 campaign.
And the Black Cats’ hierarchy hoped the 24-year-old would go on to prove that his 2009-10 spell at Hull City – where he scored one goal in 28 appearances – would prove to be a blip in an otherwise prolific record.
Sadly for Altidore, and for Sunderland, his campaign on Wearside has proved a mirror image of his time on Humberside, and this season he has scored only one goal in 27 league appearances
But Poyet says the American international has to accept what has happened and move on.
“I think Jozy has been finding it difficult for a number of reasons,” the Uruguayan said.
“It is a mixture of how we have been playing, of the position he has been playing and just the fact that it hasn’t been running for him.
“It’s the way football goes sometimes too – sometimes you make a run to the front post and the ball goes to the back, then you make a run to the back post and the ball goes to the near post.
“It can happen time and time again and then you get paranoid and start thinking is it happening on purpose?
“But you can just have runs where you’re in roughly the right area but the ball just won’t drop to you, and I think Jozy has suffered a bit of that.”
Poyet says he has sympathy for Altidore’s annus horribilis, having endured a similarly torrid season himself as a player at Grenoble in the 1988-89 season.
“When I analyse players who are struggling for form I always look at myself – when I went and played in France I was terrible,” he reflected.
“Now did they play in a way that did not suit me? Maybe.
“It was difficult for me, I was 20. I did not speak the language.
“There are many reasons I could use for why it did not work out.
“But the reality is I was terrible, for whatever reason. So then I looked to have a new start.
“With Jozy, it has been hard for him.
“It was a great challenge for him to come back to England, to prove he could be better second time around than first.
“This is a difficult league though, a difficult league to play in, the game is played at a difficult pace.
“If you link up, then you are not in the box to receive the ball; if you do not link up then you do not touch the ball and it is easy to look bad.
“There are many ways to look bad in the English Premier League.”
Altidore was better than he has been for months at Liverpool on Monday, in a system which seemed to suit him more – paired up front with Connor Wickham.
And Poyet says that if the American is to get better in the remaining games it will have to be a collective effort between individual and team.
He said: “It is up to the team to help each other in situations like this.
“Everyone has to look at ways of helping the player who is struggling, and the player who is struggling has to look at helping themselves.
“There’s nothing that can be done about the season so far and the games that have gone, so what Jozy has to do is to accept that and look to finish the season strongly in the games he’s involved in.”