Former Sunderland midfielder Brian Atkinson has urged the Black Cats to do all they can to keep Stephane Sessegnon this summer, writes Graeme Anderson.
Life-long fan Atkinson – now assistant manager at Martin Gray’s Darlington – was thrilled by the performances of the Benin international at the Stadium of Light last season.
And he believes that the African is a match-winner the Black Cats can ill-afford to lose, with rumours that Premier League champions Manchester City are among the clubs circling this summer to test the Wearsiders’ resolve to hang on to their prize asset.
“Sessegnon’s been a massive plus,” said Atkinson, who was part of Sunderland’s 1992 FA Cup Final team.
“The games I’ve seen this year, I’ve been really impressed with him.
“Whether or not he was unhappy before, he looked a different player towards the end of the season and he’s the sort of player you hope Sunderland can keep a hold of.
“They’ve got to do all they can to try.
“He can change games, and has done – he’s a quality player.”
Whether O’Neill can hang on to Sessegnon or not, Atkinson would also like to see more strikers arrive on Wearside this summer.
No one at the club hit double figures last season, and while Sessegnon, Seb Larsson and Nicklas Bendtner – now back at Arsenal following his loan spell – scored eight goals apiece, Fraizer Campbell and Ji Dong-Won notched just twice and Connor Wickham once.
Atkinson said: “Sunderland are like anybody, they’ll want people who can score goals and change games, people you can rely on.
“I wouldn’t like to say what he Martin O’Neill needs, because I haven’t seen that much of them.
“But I’ve no doubt he’ll be looking for a centre forward, and I hope they get one.”
Meanwhile, Atkinson says that, despite not playing in Euro 2012 so far, Sunderland winger James McClean will benefit massively from being part of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad.
“Martin O’Neill played him and the lad’s never looked back,” the 41-year-old – part of Sunderland’s midfield options from 1988-1996 – observed.
“He’s a threat and it’s great news that he’s out there for the Euros.
“That’s only going to make him a better player.”