Jan Kirchhoff’s pre-season has been blighted by calf and hamstring injuries – but he has vowed to be fit enough to play “full tempo” for 90 minutes this season.
The German struggled to last a full game after arriving for a bargain £750,000 in January but the former Bayern Munich man was still a key figure in the club’s survival.
Fitness won’t be an issue to find an excuse or anythingJan Kirchhoff
Despite his influence, the 25-year-old midfielder was often substituted around the 70 minute mark.
This season, though, Kirchhoff believes he will be at the same fitness levels as the rest of the squad ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
“I feel comfortable to be healthy enough to stay on the pitch and go for a whole season, that won’t be the problem,” Kirchhoff told the Echo.
“Fitness is something you can improve always which helps to make your game easier, and that wasn’t the case last year. It was what I struggled with a little bit.
“But also, it wasn’t in this bad a condition that I can’t stay on the pitch; I played good games until the 70th minute and then we made some substitutes, even in the last five games I was able to play 90 minutes.
“Sam [Allardyce] decided to make a change in the midfield which was totally fine.
“I expect myself to be fit enough to go for 90 minutes full tempo and be at the same fitness level as the other guys.
“That won’t be an issue to find an excuse or anything.”
Kirchhoff picked up a calf injury in the training camp in Austria before returning for the pre-season games against Dijon and Montpellier in France, where he went off with a hamstring strain.
He didn’t travel to Austria for the friendly with Borussia Dortmund, instead staying behind to work on his fitness.
Assistant manager Paul Bracewell was confident Kirchhoff, Jermain Defoe (thigh) and Billy Jones (hip) would return to training ahead of the game against Manchester City.
It will be David Moyes’ first competitive game in charge of Sunderland and Kirchhoff has given an insight into the subtle differences between his new boss and ex-manager Sam Allardyce.
“All of us can understand Big Sam for his decision that he wanted to go for the job, nobody can blame him for that,” added Kirchhoff.
“We had a good time with him but we have to accept it. It is okay for us, and we have got a good choice from the club with the new manager.
“The new manager is bringing in some new influence. It is good for us to work with him.
“We tried to be really organised on the pitch, having really clear ways of defending, ways of movement with and without the ball.
“Try to play to the final third, stay in the final third as often as we can and try and create and finish our chances.
“Control the game defensively and go forward as fast as we can.
“In the main it is quite the same but in details and organisation and the formation there are slight differences.
“We have to learn that quickly, adapt and see what his ideas are and get them into our minds.
“Going onto the pitch knowing exactly what he wants to do.”
Kirchhoff hasn’t set himself any personal targets, adding: “It is not about me personally, I just try to train every day, play good games and help the team be successful. That is my job, our job, to have a good year with this team.”
“We all want to be in a different situation than last year, we don’t want to play against relegation.”