GUS Poyet says Andrea Dossena can be a first-team regular for Sunderland this season rather than a bit-part player.
And he insists he did not feel it was too much of a risk handing the Italian left-back a Premier League start in last weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby.
The Sunderland v Newcastle game is not just a test of stamina but of character and many were surprised to see the 32-year-old handed his first start in Sunderland colours in that match, especially when other options like Jack Colback or Phil Bardsley were available.
But Poyet said: “It is difficult to say playing Andrea Dossena was a gamble because at the end of the day, the simple fact is that he needed to start a game sooner or later.
“He is good enough to do that at this level – he almost started the game against Swansea, my first in charge.
“I can tell you, he was close.
“He didn’t start, for whatever reasons – but why is it better that he should start at Hull City away rather than Newcastle at home? Why?
“Because you never know, you put a performer on the pitch in a game as intense as the derby and you might get the very best out of him and that’s what I decided to do.”
Dossena was signed by Paolo Di Canio on transfer deadline day, almost as an after-thought it seemed.
The Black Cats had been desperate for a left-back all summer and picked up the Napoli discard – sidelined with a thigh injury on his arrival – on a season-long loan at the very last minute.
He was expected by many to be no more than back-up this season.
But Poyet says the ex-Liverpool attacking full-back still has plenty to offer.
And although Dossena is still short of full match fitness, the new head coach believes he could go on to be a useful first-team player for Sunderland this season.
“He is a left-back and I wanted to have a left-back playing in a left-back position last week,” he explained.
“Particularly when you are struggling as a side, it is helpful to have players playing in their rightful positions – it means it is one less distraction for them, they can play more their natural game.
“Now we have to work on getting him fully fit, as we do with several of our players.
“Andrea was getting cramps and struggling to get through the second half against Newcastle, I could see that.
“Hey, but then we scored our winner and he managed to sprint 80 yards to celebrate!
“So that just shows you.
“It doesn’t matter what your body says, when you are happy and feeling good your body will overcome the barriers - we had a few players who I am sure in that game were dead on their feet with pain everywhere.
“When you took everything into consideration, choosing Dossena wasn’t a gamble for me.
“But yes, he was quite a difficult decision to make and he wasn’t the only one for that game.”