GUS POYET says Sunderland’s players have been waiting to see Ricky Alvarez emerge as a match-winner.
On-loan Inter Milan midfielder Alvarez was handed only his fourth Sunderland start in last night’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Fulham after Adam Johnson was ruled out due to a minor operation on his thumb.
But Alvarez, who has been hit by a series of injury problems since arriving at the Stadium of Light in August, took his chance by producing a stunning individual goal to help secure a fifth round trip to League One Bradford.
That came as no surprise to either head coach Poyet or Alvarez’s Sunderland team-mates, who have seen the Argentine international’s ability on the training field over recent months.
Poyet said: “I think the reaction from his team-mates said a lot.
“They’ve been watching him every day. They know what he can do because they are trying to get the ball off him.
“The problem is we haven’t been able to play him a lot.
“I said the other day that I had to play Ricky.
“The circumstances gave me the chance to play him and everybody can see now why I need him on the pitch.
“Of course you need to control the ball first.
“But if we do that and give him the ball in the right areas, I wouldn’t be happy if I was a full-back seeing him coming against me.
“He’s a great addition for us. Let’s see if we can get him up to the pace of English football.
“The chance he had to recover after an action in Italy is not going to happen here.”
Sunderland will now head to Bradford – the conquerors of Premier League leaders Chelsea – on Sunday, February 15, bidding to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the cup for the second season on the spin.
And Poyet admits he is already braced for a more route one approach on the notoriously ropey Valley Parade pitch.
“It’s an opportunity against Bradford,” added the Uruguayan.
“It’s going to be tough after what they’ve done. We are already talking about the pitch, which as everyone knows, is one of the worst in the country.
“That will make the game different.
“We’ll see how we plan that game because of course it’s not going to be a passing football game.
“We need to adapt.
“Maybe we’ll have to play a bit more direct and pick the players for the game.”