A CURSE proved to be a blessing for Gus Poyet in the early stages of his playing career in the Premier League.
Just two months after joining Chelsea back in 1997, Poyet sustained cruciate knee ligament damage which kept him on the sidelines for five months.
But inadvertantly, that time on the treatment table helped Poyet.
He was able to acclimatise to life in English football, both on and off-the-field, and when he finally did return to action, quickly made an impact at Stamford Bridge - helping Chelsea lift the Cup Winners’ Cup at the end of the campaign.
Poyet wonders whether Ricky Alvarez’s stint on the sidelines may prove to be similarly beneficial in the long-term.
The on-loan Inter Milan midfielder started only the fourth game of his Sunderland career in Tuesday night’s FA Cup win at Fulham after being plagued by injuries since his summer move - including two months out with a knee problem.
But now injury-free, Alvarez demonstrated his prowess against Fulham, with Poyet hoping the Argentine international can be similarly effective in the Premier League - starting with Saturday’s trip to Swansea.
Poyet said: “It’s difficult (to adapt to English football).
“I was lucky, for example.
“I got injured and was out for six months.
“Those six months gave me the chance to see football from the inside, without being on the pitch.
“Then if you are clever enough and you know what you need to do, you are better and stronger when you come back. You know what is needed.
“Ricky was unlucky because as soon as he started to show something, he got injured.
“He played a couple of games and was starting to adapt to English football, but then got injured.
“And then on the way back, he had a few setbacks.
“We didn’t have a chance to play him in a game that was perfect.
“Now he needs to get used to the pace of the Premier League. Let’s see at Swansea.”
Circumstances somewhat dictated Alvarez’s place in the starting line-up at Fulham after fellow wideman Adam Johnson missed out due to a minor thumb operation.
But Alvarez was one of only three outfield changes – one of which was enforced at the last minute when Connor Wickham pulled out following the warm-up.
With a trip to League One Bradford awaiting in the next round, there was clearly an incentive for Poyet to name a strong side, but the head coach was also keen to harness the momentum from last weekend’s crucial Premier League win over Burnley.
“The idea of playing a strong team was to get back-to-back wins,” added Poyet.
“People can talk about Bradford or how important the cup is.
“But the main thing was to keep the momentum going from the game the other day, without trying anything too clever.
“We needed to win at Fulham, so I’m sure the players who played both games will have the confidence that we’re always looking for.”