GUS POYET admits he would have looked to enter the transfer market to cure Sunderland’s goal problems, if the Black Cats had been in a lower league.
But with the emergency loan window only available to Football League clubs, Poyet believes he has done the next best thing in introducing fresh blood by recalling Connor Wickham from his loan spell at Leeds United.
Third bottom Sunderland have netted just three times in their last seven games, with Steven Fletcher on the treatment table for at least another fortnight, Jozy Altidore scoring only one league goal all season and January arrival Nacho Scocco clearly short of match fitness.
With on-loan Liverpool frontman Fabio Borini out of tonight’s trip to Anfield too, Poyet decided to bring Wickham back to Wearside in a bid to find a scoring solution.
Wickham is likely to be handed only his second Sunderland start of the season on Merseyside and Poyet has hinted that the £8million frontman could be given an extended chance to prove his credentials over the final 10 games of the campaign.
Poyet told the Echo: “Sometimes you need to look for a change to get something different.
“If we were in a lower division, I would look to get a player in on loan before the loan window shuts on Thursday.
“What we’ve done is do it the opposite way around and bring back a player who has been desperate to have an opportunity that he hasn’t had.
“From outside, he was probably thinking ‘I’m not playing there and nobody has scored a goal. I’m a striker and they’ve paid a lot of money for me’.
“It’s not about tonight with Connor. It’s not like I’m going to judge him on tonight.
“But we’ve got 10 games and he’s going to play a big part until the end of the season.”
Poyet spoke with Wickham last week about the possibility of returning and then rang the 20-year-old again on Sunday to tell him he was being brought back to Wearside after Sunderland’s woeful display in the 2-0 defeat at Norwich 24 hours earlier.
Wickham has made just nine Premier League starts since arriving at the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2011, but Poyet says this is the England Under-21 international’s chance to prove his top flight credentials.
“Sometimes it’s the right time and you have to be ready,” said the head coach.
“I say the same to my son (Charlton midfielder Diego Poyet): ‘Be ready’.
“Then it’s up to you.
“I would love Connor to be our best player in the next 10 games.
“Now, we’re not going to put all the responsibility there because that would be unfair on him.
“But can he help us? Can he bring something different? If so, that would be great.”
While successive Sunderland managers - including Poyet himself - have clearly harboured reservations over Wickham’s readiness for the Premier League, the Uruguayan believes the club hasn’t done enough to help the former Ipswich man either.
Poyet added: “He’s got everything. But did the whole club put a programme on Connor over the years he’s been here?
“We paid a lot of money for him and it was ‘go on, play with the first team’. When it didn’t work, he’s been sent out on loan.
“When he came here, he was 17, so there was still a process that maybe we - and I include myself in that because I’ve been here for five months - that we didn’t do right.
“Maybe, he’s paid the price for that.
“There is some part that we didn’t do well as a club over the last three years.
“Of course, the player has a responsibility himself. Let’s not take all the blame.
“But I would just love for him to be ready and offer something different.”