JOZY ALTIDORE has warned that Sunderland are facing another season of toil if they cannot move through the gears.
Altidore’s first Sunderland goal since December was in vain last night after last season’s finalists crashed out of the Capital One Cup at the hands of Premier League peers Stoke City.
As has regularly been the case this season, Sunderland were not outplayed or outfought, but the Black Cats were unable to profit from their chances or enjoy any lengthy periods in the ascendancy.
And after avoiding relegation from the Premier League by the skin of their teeth last season, Altidore says Sunderland need to immediately find a way to convert the average performances into good ones, or Gus Poyet’s side are well aware of the consequences.
Altidore said “I didn’t think we deserved to lose. I don’t think we played that bad.
“But this has haunted us the whole of last season and a bit this year. Games we should win, we’re not winning.
“It’s something that we need to address now or else it’s inevitable that what happened last season - and the pressure - will come back.
“If it’s close and you’re going to lose the game, you want to look back and be applauding the other team for a great strike.
“We’re still losing games where we’re leaving ourselves short.
“So, we deserve better and it’s not saying just ‘this guy’ is playing bad. We need to be collectively better.
“We understand that and we’ve got home games coming up where we’ve got the chance to do that.”
Sunderland reached the final of the League Cup and quarter-final of the FA Cup last season and Altidore admits there was a sense of disappointment in the Sunderland dressing room at being knocked at the third round stage this time around.
He said: “I think the cup is a big deal and I enjoy playing in these games because you have the chance to win something.
“It also keeps the squad fresh, which is important.
“We have a squad where everybody is challenging for places.
“When you’ve only got one game a week, it’s difficult for the manager and difficult for the players to stay fit.
“So it’s a bit of a shame, but it makes training much more important and we can look forward to the FA Cup.”
Altidore’s first half strike was his first goal since last December, after only netting twice last season following his £7million arrival from AZ Alkmaar.
After such a difficult maiden campaign at the Stadium of Light, Altidore admits it’s a relief to have scored early this time around.
The 24-year-old added: “It was nice to score for Sunderland.
“I like being here; I enjoy it.
“It’s difficult sometimes to play because I think we’re still a team in transition.
“But it’s a great club with great fans. The future bright is hope.
“It’s good to get it away.
“But it’s difficult. We have three strikers and we’re having trouble getting those chances to score.”
Marc Muniesa’s double sent last season’s finalists crashing out of the Capital One Cup after a Stadium of Light comeback from Stoke City.
Altidore’s first goal since December looked to have put Sunderland on course for the fourth round of the competition, but visitors Stoke had other ideas.
Former Barcelona man Muniesa took advantage of some poor Sunderland defending to smash home a deserved first half equaliser for the Potters.
Will Buckley was twice denied by saves from Jack Butland after the break, but after Sunderland’s appeals for a foul on Adam Johnson were waved away, Muniesa smashed home a second to eliminate Gus Poyet’s side.