Sunderland new signing Younes Kaboul insists confidence not affected by criticism

Younes Kaboul in action for Sunderland against Norwich. Picture by FRANK REID
Younes Kaboul in action for Sunderland against Norwich. Picture by FRANK REID

Younes Kaboul found himself on the end of a savaging at the hands of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville earlier this week.

In fairness, Neville could have found plenty of culprits for Sunderland’s collapse against Norwich, yet it was £3million summer signing Kaboul who bore the brunt of the ex-Manchester United man’s criticism for each of the three goals netted by the Canaries.

I don’t question my self-belief, but you always have to question yourself to improve

Younes Kaboul

If Kaboul was to offer some mitigation, the Frenchman could point to a lack of match fitness after not featuring competitively for former club Spurs since January.

Neither has the 29-year-old been given a great deal of help from left-back Patrick van Aanholt alongside him.

But Kaboul insists the inevitable criticism which has spiralled from Sunderland’s defeat last weekend – nor the manner of the opening two games – has not dented his confidence.

“It’s normal, but we don’t need to hide,” he said.

“We try to give our best out on the pitch and, at the minute, it is not right and we have lost the first two games.

“I don’t question my self-belief, but you always have to question yourself to improve.

“But we are really confident.

“It is our job, and we know what we have to do to get better, and of course we will do that.

“I think it is just a question of winning the first game, and once we do that we will crack on.”

Kaboul concedes, though, that he is not yet back to full fitness.

He was never going to be at this stage of the season after injuries plagued his final year at Spurs, before he fell out of favour under Mauricio Pochettino.

After only been given two outings during pre-season – neither of which was 90 minutes – it was a gamble from Dick Advocaat to use Kaboul from the off, yet the France international does believe he is getting up to speed.

“I’m improving with every day’s training, and with every game,” he said.

“I’m not perfect, but I’m working hard on it.”

However, after Sunderland have shipped a total of seven goals against two sides expected to be in or around them in the bottom eight at the end of the season, Advocaat has been considering whether to restore captain John O’Shea to the starting line-up against Swansea.

Kaboul will accept Advocaat’s decision if he is left out, although he stresses that a new double-act with Sebastian Coates in central defence needs time to gel.

“Whoever plays, as long as we win, that is what matters,” he said.

“It is a new partnership.

“We spend a lot of time at the training ground, everyone, to get to know each other better and that is very important.”

Talk is cheap though in the current situation after the manner of Sunderland’s opening two performances have prompted a backlash from supporters this week.

While it seems ridiculous to be talking of a ‘crisis’ at such a premature stage of the campaign, Sunderland fans have seen three successive years of struggle and are pig-sick at the prospect of another one.

“I can understand the fans’ feelings, because they really care,” added Kaboul.

“But we care also and the best way to get better is to work all together – when I say all together, I mean the club and the fans.

“That’s what I like from a football club.

“The fans at Sunderland are really behind us and we respect that.

“I hope we can have some great times all together.

“You cannot have always a happy time, in terms of results.

“Obviously we wish we could have won our first two games – the object of a football game is to win it.

“But we have to look forward, and we have to learn from what we have done wrong in the last two games and make it right against Swansea tomorrow.”