Sunderland vs Hull City: Victor Anichebe bids to show he can be 'beast of the North-East'

The resurgent Nigerian bagged a brace to help lift David Moyes' side off the bottom of the league, two points behind a Hull side who remain on a breathtaking downward trajectory

 

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The Independent Online

It is one of football's lesser-trodden paths that has taken Victor Anichebe from Los Angeles to Wearside via the not so mean streets of leafy Knutsford, as the new self-styled 'beast of the North-East' bids to show he's still fit for purpose.

Jermain Defoe scored his 150th Premier League goal, but it was a player a modest 123 behind his forward partner whose name was up in lights when power was finally restored after 40,000 fans had been plunged into darkness at the outset of the second-half. It had taken Anichebe 18 months to score his previous two goals, but the resurgent Nigerian matched that tally in 22 minutes to help lift David Moyes' side off the bottom of the Premier League, two points behind a Hull side who remain on a breath-taking downward trajectory after flattering to deceive in the season's outset. 

Anichebe's remains a career of potential rather than fulfilment, which at the age of 28 is a somewhat damning assessment, but for the here and now he boasts three goals in two games, having scored in consecutive matches for the first time in more than four years.

He puts his latest renaissance down to belatedly bearing the fruits of a long-term fitness regime mapped out by Nicky Holender, a Tottenham-supporting ex-pat celebrity personal trainer, launched as he came to the end of when an unhappy spell at West Bromwich Albion in the summer. "I knew quite early at West Brom that I wanted to see out my contract," he revealed after two robust second-half finishes sealed back-to-back Sunderland victories for only a third time this year, the loss of defender Papy Djilobodji to a second yellow late on proving inconsequential.

His impressive physique the result of hours in the gym and other assorted implements of athletic torture, he added: "I wasn't being played very much there but I wasn't bothered because it gave me time to concentrate on my body, and the fitness staff were great. I tried to turn a bad time into a good time."

Signed as a free agent in August, a series of minor injuries delayed Anichebe's first Premier League start for more than two months, as the doubters again looked set to be proved right, but he hasn't looked back since being paired with Defoe. Anichebe added: "I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles over the summer, working with my trainer, often doing three sessions a day, which was a huge help.

"Knutsford FC, near where I live, let me use their facilities and I'm really grateful to them for that. I was there every day and able to keep as fit as possible. There were bigger money moves to go abroad, but I didn't want to leave the Premier League. It wasn't about money, and when David Moyes came into Sunderland I knew he had faith in me and that allied to being able to play alongside Jermain up in the North-East was a big pull. The fans really pushed us on against Hull and I thought everyone out there was a beast for us today."

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Anichebe winds up to take a shot on goal (Getty)

Anichebe has already developed a good rapport with Defoe, whose sublime first-half dribble and finish saw him become only the eighth player to register 150 Premier League goals. Moyes revealed: "Victor actually said to Jermain 'I can't believe you've scored 150 goals, they're all rubbish'. They've got that sort of relaxed relationship at the moment, they're having a good go together."

The Scot has been rewarded for putting his faith in rookie goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, now firmly his number one, after a first clean sheet of the season, and he is slowly starting to instill in his side an identity and character which if married with a couple of shrewd acquisitions in January suggests a fifth consecutive successful relegation fight might not be beyond them.

After Saturday's power cut added to a previous visit with Manchester United where the visitors' dressing room was flooded with raw sewage thanks to a burst pipe, Mike Phelan conceded the Stadium of Light isn't among his favourite away venues. As with their hosts, Hull's recruitment over the winter transfer window is likely to prove crucial to their survival hopes. They sit third bottom, and the head coach said: "I have money to spend in January, but it's about who you spend it on, and where you spend it."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Pickford 8; Jones 7, Kone 5, Djilobodji 5, van Aanholt 6; Watmore 7, Ndong 6, Denayer 7 (O'Shea 83, 5), McNair 7 (Love 88, 5); Defoe 8, Anichebe 9. Sent off: Djilobodji. Booked: Jones.Goals: Defoe 34, Anichebe 62, 84. Sent off: Djilobodji. Booked: Jones.

Hull City (4-2-3-1): Marshall 4; Elmohamady 3, Dawson 4, Davies 4, Tymon 6 (Bowen 68, 5); Henriksen 5, Livermore 4; Snodgrass 5, Clucas 6, Mason 6 (Meyler 78, 5); Mbokani 5.

Referee: Lee Mason

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