Gardner appreciates Sessegnon’s qualities even more now

Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon.
Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon.
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CRAIG Gardner has gained a bird’s eye view of Stephane Sessegnon over the last three games.

From Gardner’s perspective, he would perhaps like to have seen more of Sessegnon, with the Benin international not offering the greatest protection for the makeshift right-back in his role on the right wing.

But Martin O’Neill’s switch to an orthodox 4-4-2 has afforded Gardner the chance to gauge the return to form of last year’s Player of the Season.

Even though Sessegnon was more subdued in last weekend’s dismal defeat at QPR, the 28-year-old still played a pivotal role in Sunderland’s goal.

And after seeing Sessegnon thrive in the previous games against West Brom and Fulham, Gardner has hailed the contribution of the former Paris Saint-Germain forward.

Gardner (pictured) told the Echo: “Sess is top class. For the last three or four games he has been on top form.

“He’s spent some of the time on the right wing and I’ve played behind him, so I’ve seen him at close quarters. Sess just turns it on when he wants.

“He can be quiet for 25 or 30 or 60 minutes and the next thing you know he is running at people and scoring goals. But that’s the sign of a top-class player.”

Gardner’s stint at right-back could be brought to an end against Norwich City on Sunday after both of Sunderland’s makeshift full-backs struggled at Loftus Road.

Fit-again Danny Rose looks certain to take the place of Jack Colback at left-back, while Scotland international Phil Bardsley is also in contention to replace Gardner in defence after the former Manchester United man played 90 minutes for the Under-21s in midweek.

Gardner and Colback both finished the game at QPR in midfield and could replace either Seb Larsson or Alfred N’Diaye in the middle of the park against the Canaries.

Sessegnon could also find himself in a new position, providing he manages to shrug off the niggling groin problem sustained in the closing stages against QPR.

January signing Danny Graham was replaced before the hour mark against the Premier League’s basement boys, with O’Neill opting to restore Sessegnon to his early season role in the hole behind 11-goal top scorer Steven Fletcher.