JOZY ALTIDORE can emerge as one of the Premier League’s star strikers if he fulfils his promise on Wearside, says Paolo Di Canio.
But the Sunderland head coach has warned Altidore that he must up his work-rate if he wants to reproduce the prolific goalscoring form he enjoyed in Holland.
Altidore was denied a first Premier League goal in Sunderland colours last weekend after referee Martin Atkinson’s failure to play an advantage against Arsenal.
The American international, who netted 31 times for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar last season, has shown glimpses of the attacking prowess which persuaded Sunderland to shell out £6million during the summer, with the 23-year-old breaking his Black Cats duck in last month’s Capital One Cup success over MK Dons.
But Di Canio believes Altidore is still to prove what a lethal frontman he can be in the Premier League after netting just once during his first spell in English football as a teenage loanee at Hull City.
The Italian told the Echo: “Now I need him to show that he can be one of the attractions in this league.
“He has fantastic potential but he has to transfer that potential into reality. You do that by working very, very hard in football, otherwise it is difficult.
“I know it is difficult – Jozy found it difficult in this division a few years ago when he was very young but he needs to use that experience as motivation to do better this time around.
“That should spark his desire and his ambition to prove that he wasn’t just an average player in this league.
“He might think it was a case of wrong time, wrong team last time he was here and he can prove that by making a real success of his time at Sunderland.
“Now he is at the best place and if he trains hard and learns then he can do well.”
Di Canio believes the return of fit-again Steven Fletcher will ease the burden on Altidore after the two frontmen were paired together for the first time against the Gunners.
“I think he is trying his hardest and hopefully it will become easier for him now that Steven Fletcher is back,” added Di Canio.
“Now you have two players who can have a good combination on the edge of the box and who are willing to work hard and run for each other to create space and opportunities.
“Jose has to understand that this league is tough and because of that you have to run more, move more to be available, still alert with his brain - otherwise it is difficult.
“He needs to do all this if he is to fulfil his potential.
“He needs to use his energy in every single moment of the game.
“He has to attack the space, attack the channels. He has to work hard to receive the ball and then he has to work hard even if he is not going to receive the ball.
“This is something that comes with practice.”