STEVE Bruce admits he would have waited until now to unleash Stephane Sessegnon on the Premier League, if Sunderland hadn’t been hamstrung by injuries.
Sessegnon featured in a winning Sunderland side for the first time in last weekend’s victory over Wigan Athletic after making 10 appearances since his £6million January move from Paris St Germain.
The 26-year-old has taken his time to adapt to both the language barrier and the pace of the Premier League, but looked transformed after scoring his first Sunderland goal from the penalty spot against the Latics.
Black Cats boss Bruce had hoped to introduce Sessegnon gently into the Premier League, only for Sunderland’s catalogue of injuries to force his hand.
But with Sessegnon expected to lead the line in Saturday’s visit of Fulham, Bruce believes the Benin international is starting to find his feet.
Bruce told the Echo: “If we’d had everybody fit and everyone singing and dancing, I would probably have just introduced him now so he could have had time to get used to the culture.
“He’s been living in a hotel for four months for a start.
“But he’s just coming out of his shell a little bit. As soon as he scored against Wigan, I thought he was sensational up front for the next 25 minutes.
“He’s introverted as a boy, but to see a smile on his face was terrific.
“I think he’s played well in a lot of games and I think he’ll be a big player for us.”
Sessegnon is expected to partner Steed Malbranque in attack against the Cottagers with strikers Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan both ruled out with hamstring strains.
Bruce has used Sessegnon as a winger, attacking midfielder and striker during his 10 appearances in a Sunderland shirt. But the Black Cats’ boss sees Sessegnon’s long-term future as a member of the front two.
That will force a change in Sunderland’s style, starting with Fulham, with the diminutive Sessegnon and Malbranque no match in the air for Cottagers central defensive duo Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes.
“I’ve got to find a position for him,” added Bruce. “In France, their attacking players all play off the frontman so he always wants to come for the ball.
“But this week we’ve been looking at playing him as an out-and-out frontman because he’s got blistering pace.
“We may need to change our style a little bit to suit him. Sessegnon and Malbranque will give teams a different problem, maybe not physically.
“We might have to play very differently.
“But it might force people to run forward from midfield, like Jack (Colback) and Jordan (Henderson) did against Wigan.”