Since his arrival in January from German giants Bayern Munich for a bargain fee of £750,000, Jan Kirchoff played a massive part in keeping Sunderland from dropping down to the second tier of English football.
Despite some magnificent performances that made him a fan favourite on Wearside, the one major concern for the Black Cats was the German struggling to see out every match he was involved in. Former boss Sam Allardyce regularly brought the player off around the 70 minute mark, in fear of him picking up any injury or burning himself out for the remainder of last season’s tough run in.
A firm belief in his fitness
Despite the 25-year-old failing to play a great part in pre-season, Kirchoff still firmly believes his fitness levels will match that of the rest of the current squad ahead of the new Premier League season. In an interview with the Sunderland Echo, Kirchoff discussed his current fitness situation. “I feel comfortable to be healthy enough to stay on the pitch and go for a whole season, that won’t be the problem,” Kirchoff said.
He also added: “Fitness is something you can improve always which helps to make your game easier, and that wasn’t the case last year. It was what I struggled with a little bit.”
Kirchoff played arguably his best game in March, in the 1-1 draw away to local rivals Newcastle United. His eye for a through ball, willingness to break up play and ability to ignite attacks became apparent and made him an instant hit with the Sunderland faithful.
Injury worries for the opening game
As well as Kirchoff, Jermain Defoe and Billy Jones picked up pre-season injuries, but assistant manager Paul Bracewell believes the trio will return to training ahead of Saturday’s game against Manchester City.
A new era
The first game against the Citizans will see new manager David Moyes take charge of his first competitive match as Sunderland boss, and Kirchoff highlighted some small differences between his new boss and Allardyce, the man who brought him to the Stadium of Light. “All of us can understand Big Sam for his decision that he wanted to go for the job, nobody can blame him for that, we had a good time with him but we have to accept it. It is okay for us, and we have got a good choice from the club with the new manager.”