7:00am Friday 7th February 2014
By Paul Fraser
ADAM JOHNSON understands why Jozy Altidore is frustrated after hearing how legendary Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips used to be over critical of himself during goal droughts.
Phillips scored 130 goals in 235 games during a six-year spell at the Stadium of Light and remains the club's record post-war goalscorer, but he did suffer from the occasional dip in form.
Never, though, did he encounter the sort of problems Altidore has been going through and there is sympathy for the United States international inside the Sunderland dressing room.
After failing to score in last weekend's 3-0 win at Newcastle, the 24-year-old has now netted just twice in 1,175 minutes of football for the Black Cats, including his Capital One Cup goal against the MK Dons in August.
But against Newcastle he delivered the sort of centre-forward's display which would have Premier League defences concerned, ahead of facing his other former English club, Hull City, tomorrow.
During his time at the KC Stadium on loan from Villarreal in 2009-10 he also scored just twice - once in the League Cup - but he was prolific during his two years in Holland with AZ Alkmaar.
Johnson can understand why Altidore is annoyed not to have found the net more often in a Sunderland shirt, particularly after seeing the £6m man torment Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson at St James' Park six days ago.
"I watched a programme recently on Kevin Phillips and they asked him the question 'Were you always disappointed if the team has won and you haven't scored? He gave an honest answer and said 'yes'," said Johnson.
"I think any top striker has got to have that element in them and Kevin was obviously a great finisher. He was disappointed when he came off the pitch without scoring a goal and I'm sure Jozy is the same. It is a good trait to have.
"Phillips went lots of games without scoring in his career and all strikers go through these sort of spells, even the best. It is all about if you are playing well.
"If you are playing well and creating chances for others then that's what it is all about. It is when you are not playing well or scoring that you have to worry. Creating chances for other players is so important and as a team is doesn't really matter, as long as we are winning.
"Jozy as a striker will be disappointed not to have scored when the team has won 3-0. Ask any forward that question and they will all say the same thing, but he was one of the main reasons why we won so convincingly."
With Steven Fletcher struggling to shake off an Achilles problem and new signing Ignacio Scocco finding his feet in English football, manager Gus Poyet knows how important Altidore is to Sunderland this season.
And the Sunderland boss was quick to praise Altidore in the immediate aftermath of the win on Tyneside and will be looking for a repeat of the Newcastle performance against the Tigers.
If Sunderland can claim a fourth league win in five matches then they will leapfrog Hull and could climb as high as tenth, having spent the majority of the campaign rooted to the foot of the table.
Johnson thinks Altidore has a crucial part to play. "All the staff have given us so much confidence and you can see it in Jozy," he said.
"He is the type of character you need at this club. There is a lot more to him than goals. Against Newcastle he must have been a nightmare to play against. Genuinely, I thought he was awesome.
"If you play like that as a striker but you don't score goals, to be honest it doesn't really matter because the amount of chances he created for us, his team-mates and his work-rate, tells its own story.
"He pushed and pulled the Newcastle centre-halves all over the place and showed power, strength and pace. He was unplayable at times and his performance was outstanding.
"I said to him, 'If you keep playing like that, getting into great positions and playing well then the goals will come. It is when you are not playing well that the goals never happen and you won't score."
Johnson’s Sunderland career also took time to take off but England manager Roy Hodgson is understood to be planning a trip to the Stadium of Light to run the rule over the winger tomorrow.
Hodgson is keen to take a closer look at a player back to his best after scoring seven goals in his last seven matches.
Such form has earned him a nomination for January’s Barclays Player of the Month award and he is competing with Luis Suarez, Yaya Toure and Santi Cazorla for the honour.
Poyet has also been shorlisted for the manager of the month prize alongside Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho and Crystal Palace’s Tony Pulis.
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