STEPHANE Sessegnon is confident he will swiftly rediscover his match fitness after being thrust into the Premier League without any pre-season action.
Sessegnon lasted just over an hour of Sunderland’s opening-day stalemate at Arsenal on Saturday despite only returning to training from an ankle injury last Tuesday.
The 28-year-old, who was given a fortnight’s extra leave during the summer because of Benin’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers, failed to appear in any of Sunderland’s pre-season friendlies and was only included at the last minute for the encounter at the Emirates.
But with this Saturday’s Stadium of Light clash against Reading the first of three games in seven days for the Black Cats, Sessegnon believes it won’t take him long to get up to speed with his team-mates.
Sessegnon told the Echo: “It was difficult on Saturday because I’ve obviously been disrupted during my pre-season and I’ve not had much preparation.
“I wasn’t at the level of fitness that I want.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to last until the final whistle. But, after playing on Saturday, I know I’ll get better and better by every game.
“My ankle is all right.
“It first began when I was on international duty during the summer and it continued when I came back here and I wasn’t able to play in the matches.
“But I think that if I can continue to play in the Premier League, then it won’t take me long to get up to speed.”
Neither side was able to play at maximum pace on a baking hot day in North London and it was Sunderland who had the best of the early chances, with James McClean and Jack Colback both testing Gunners stopper Wojciech Szczesny.
Sunderland became redundant as an attacking force as the game wore on, but a dogged defensive display ensured they began the Premier League campaign with a point.
Benin international Sessegnon added: “It’s normal to play in that heat in Africa, so that was not a problem for me!
“It was the same for both teams, too, but you just had to try to conserve your energy.
“For the first game of the season, it’s a very good result.
“No doubt about it, the defence did very well and made a lot of last-gasp clearances.
“It’s difficult against a team like Arsenal because they keep the ball very well and have a lot of quality players throughout the team.
“But we tried to be solid and, at the same time, we had a couple of chances ourselves.
“We’ve got to be satisfied with a goalless draw and a point, even though we didn’t manage to get a goal.”