Ahmed Elmohamady will patiently wait for his chance to play on a regular basis under Sunderland’s new coach Martin O’Neill, he told Ahram Online in an exclusive interview.
The Egyptian right wing-back used to play week in, week out under O’Neill’s predecessor Steve Bruce after earning a permanent stay with Sunderland last summer, having initially joined the English Premier League club on a season-long loan in 2010.
Sunderland have made a rapid improvement since O’Neill took charge, winning four out of seven league matches, including a famous 1-0 upset victory over the highly-flying Manchester City.
However, Elmohamady played a bit-part role in the Black Cats’ revival, making only a couple of late substitute appearances against league leaders City and Wigan Athletic.
“It’s not a big problem for me (not to play on a regular basis). That is the decision of the new coach,” the 24-year-old, who rose to prominence with ENPPI in the Egyptian Premier League, told Ahram Online.
“I have to mind my own business. Yes, it is true that I did not play in Sunderland’s first three games after coach O’Neill arrived, but he has the right to take his time to assess the displays of his players.
“I am satisfied with the limited opportunities I have had since O’Neill took over. He said from the very beginning every player would have a chance, and he mentioned my name. That’s why I’m not worried.”
Egyptian media constantly praise Elmohamady for adapting to life in the elite Premier League, contrasting his professionalism to the attitude of Amr Zaki who took the competition by storm in his first few months with Wigan before falling from grace due to some childish acts off the field.
Elmohamady, a regular member of Egypt’s starting line-up, seems determined to avoid any problems that might hinder his progress in his European adventure.
“Everyone has a role to play. The player should do his best to prove his worth and the coach is the one responsible for leading the team and carrying out the tactical duties. The player should not infringe on the coach’s role,” he added.
“Football is very professional here, not personal. No favoritism here. No coach would give you more or better chances just because he likes you.
“Egyptian footballers need to understand that football is a profession and job that they depend on for their earnings.”
Elmohamady said the idea of returning to Egypt has not crossed his mind, given that he has settled into life in England, avoiding the homesickness which ruined the European careers of several Egyptian players during the past two decades.
The right-sided midfielder, who is known for his darting runs down the flank and pinpoint crosses, has improved his English language skills and made friends “in a short span of time”.
“My relationship with all my teammates is very warm. They all respect me, and the players and officials are very supportive,” he commented.
“The language was an obstacle at the beginning. But they helped me with English courses and it took me few months to talk and interact. I never felt isolated because of the language barrier.
“I love Sunderland and wish to stay with the team until the end of my contract, and if the club offered me a stay I will be happy,” he added, but refused to rule out a move away from the Stadium of Light if a better chance came up.
Even if Sunderland opt against prolonging his stay, Elmohamady said he has no intention of returning home.
“I do not think I will be ready to go back to play in Egypt before eight years at least. I may prefer to play for an Arab Gulf team for some years if I did not get a new offer after 2014,” he said.
Elmohamady has scored one goal since joining Sunderland - a powerful header in the team’s 2-2 league draw with West Bromwich Albion in October last year.
He faces a challenge to build on that and prove his worth under Northern Irish coach O’Neill.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online sports on Twitter: @AO_Sports)