Sunderland’s under-used £30million trio have to prove their credentials for a starting spot, insists Sam Allardyce.
The three players introduced from the bench in last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal – Adam Johnson, Jack Rodwell and Jeremain Lens – set back Sunderland a total in excess of £30m, yet none have managed to hold down a regular place in Allardyce’s tenure at the Stadium of Light.
The application of ability in the Premier League is the ultimate test for anyone who plays thereSam Allardyce
Between them, they have managed a total of just four starts in seven games, albeit Rodwell and Johnson are both in contention to be recalled for today’s clash against Watford.
But Sunderland boss Allardyce says it is the players themselves who have to take charge of their own destiny and force their way into the side.
“It’s in their hands, really,” said Allardyce.
“All you can do is give them the tools to go out and do what they want to do, and promote their strengths.
“The application of ability in the Premier League is the ultimate test for anyone who plays there.
“Adam has proven many, many times that he can perform at this level, no problem whatsoever.
“What he has to do is try to revert back to what he does well in the week, why he performed so well for Middlesbrough, Man City and England, and then replicate that to show that he is not declining, he is now beginning to recapture that form which we have seen before.
“Jack has been dogged with niggly injuries for so long that I think he lost a bit of confidence in himself.
“I think he was worried about getting re-injured.
“We’re trying to overcome that because we know he has got the ability to play at this level.
“And Jeremain is in his first year in the Premier League, which is always a tough learning curve, especially from the physical attributes.
“He’s got the strength, it’s the amount of high intensity runs that you have to achieve at this level of football to produce the ability he has.
“It lies in their hands.
“They haven’t had many opportunities while I’ve been here, but hopefully when they get in there, they have enough desire and determination to stay there.
“It’s that simple.”
Allardyce insists the lofty price tags shelled out for Johnson, Rodwell and summer signing Lens cannot enter his thinking though.
He added: “It’s not a matter of how much we paid for them. It’s what they do day in, day out and how they perform week in, week out.
“That decides my thinking first and foremost and then you look at the opposition and decide which player is best for this game.
“It’s about who is playing well and who is applying themselves correctly on a month-by-month basis.
“I hope everyone during my tenure improves between now and whenever I leave the football club.
“But those three can make a massive impact in our way forward.”