Tony Pulis hailed John Carew's contribution to Stoke City's comeback victory and revealed that it was the former Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill who convinced him to sign the outspoken Norwegian striker on loan in last month's transfer window.
The 31-year-old with Valencia, Roma, Besiktas and Lyon on his CV accused Gérard Houllier of being disrespectful when the current Villa boss challenged him to "earn" a new contract, to which the Frenchman replied that Carew "should stop living in the past".
He and Stoke looked an unlikely fit but a conversation with O'Neill persuaded Pulis that they could forge a working relationship and the way Carew took centre stage in a classic Stoke performance suggested the advice was sound.
"It was Martin who convinced me to do the deal," Pulis said. "He said that John was a smashing fella, a gentle giant in lots of respects but if you get him motivated and get him at it, he's as good as anybody. It takes time to find the make up of a person.
"John's been fantastic. He has become a favourite in the dressing room already. He has a great dry sense of humour and the lads love him. His presence will help but he's got great technique too. People say as a big fella he can only head it. But a couple of things he' done today, even, he's left defenders for dead."
Yet it was Carew's willingness to be at the heart of a Stoke bombardment that stood out. He was there – albeit in an unacknowledged offside position – to stab in the first Stoke equaliser after Craig Gordon had been beaten in the air and it was his challenge for Jermaine Pennant's free-kick that set up the second for Robert Huth, who was on the end of another Pennant delivery to score the stoppage-time winner.
The better goals came from Sunderland, who went ahead when Kieran Richardson scored his fourth in three games and again when Asamoah Gyan converted a pass from his Ghanaian team-mate and Sunderland debutant Sulley Muntari. But at the back Steve Bruce's side lacked resilience.
Scorers: Stoke Carew 32, Huth 83, 90. Sunderland Richardson 2, Gyan 48.
Subs: Stoke Walters (Wilkinson, 66) Unused Sorensen (gk), Collins, Shotton, Whelan, Wilson, Pugh. Sunderland Malbranque (Henderson, 85), Zenden (Muntari, 89). Unused Mignolet (gk), Angeleri, Riveros, Colback, Elmohamady.
Booked: Stoke Delap Sunderland Sessegnon, Muntari, Henderson.
Man of the match Pennant Match rating 7/10.
Possession Stoke 50% Sunderland 50%.
Attempts on target Stoke 9 Sunderland 7.
Referee L Probert (Gloucestershire) Att 26,008.Reuse content