Sunderland boss has this encouraging message for the January signing still waiting for a full debut

Isaac Lihadji joined Sunderland in January but is yet to make his full debut

Tony Mowbray says Isaac Lihadji can expect some major opportunities to impress in the first months of next season after a stop-start first half-season on Wearside.

Lihadji joined from Lille in the January window and the expectation had been that he may well get a chance to show his talent in the closing weeks of the season. Sunderland's outstanding form made it difficult for Mowbray to find a place for him in the starting XI, instead going with the form and experience of his more established players as the Black Cats surged into the top six and set up a play-off semi final against Luton Town.

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In the end Lihadji made six appearances from the bench, with limited opportunity to make a big impression.

The winger arrived at Sunderland with little knowledge of the language and having not played regularly for some time, and the hope is that the time he has had to adapt will allow him to hit the ground running in pre-season.

Sunderland's head coach insists he has no concerns about the 21-year-old's talents and says he will benefit from the always hectic schedule through the opening months of the season, when Championship and Carabao Cup fixtures in midweek are a constant.

"As a staff, we all really like Isaac," Mowbray said.

"He's a very, very talented player with lovely, fast feet. He's lithe and can get past people, he can flip it over their foot and glide inside and they can't get back to him. He can manipulate the ball very well, and he's a high-quality footballer - it's just sometimes to get him on and get him up to the intensity of the game is really difficult. And so we've only seen him in little spurts.

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"I think when he starts football matches and plays for an hour or so, fans will see a really good footballer who can make things happen for the team. He's just been a bit short [of action] because it's difficult with players like Clarke and Amad and Roberts [to take them off] because they're contributing and giving you that feeling that they are going to score, to create something."

"He plays in a position where we've been really strong and so he just has to be patient. Early on in the season, there's no issue with rotating a little in a three-game week, so a Clarke or a Roberts can sit on the bench and he can get a go. Or in other games he can come on after an hour and hopefully make something happen for us.

"Hopefully he can be a success at this club and I think fans are going to be excited by his talent once he gets going."

Mowbray has previously said that the club could consider a loan move for Joe Anderson in pre-season, depending on the club's incoming recruitment. Like Lihadji, Anderson is still waiting for his full debut after arriving in January and while impressed with his technical ability, the head coach feels he needs greater exposure to senior football to develop the physical side of his game.