STEPHANE Sessegnon could still play a part in Sunderland’s Premier League opener at Arsenal after tests revealed the forward’s injury is not as serious as initially feared.
Sessegnon has not featured at all during the Black Cats’ pre-season campaign after sustaining an ankle problem on the training field last week.
The Benin international, who was given an extra fortnight’s leave during the summer, underwent scans on Friday and there was positive news on the length of the 28-year-old’s lay-off.
Manager Martin O’Neill has not ruled Sessegnon in or out of this Saturday’s Premier League curtain-raiser at the Emirates, although he will hope that last year’s Player of the Season can defy his lack of pre-season action to feature against the Gunners.
O’Neill told the Echo: “Sessegnon hurt his ankle the other day and had some more scans on Friday.
“The news emanating from the doctor wasn’t too bad. We’re less fearful than we possibly were.
“That’s decent news.”
Sessegnon’s fellow ankle injury victim, full-back Phil Bardsley, yesterday formally withdrew from the Scotland squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Australia.
But Bardsley is on the mend and O’Neill will re-assess the Scotland international’s fitness today after returning from the Black Cats’ three-night stay in the East Midlands.
“Phil, on the other hand, we’ll have to wait to see how he is today,” said O’Neill.
“But it’s been unfortunate for him because we could have done with him.”
Sessegnon and Bardsley have joined David Vaughan, Wes Brown and Connor Wickham on the treatment table and O’Neill will keep his fingers crossed this week that his squad is not further depleted.
Irish trio John O’Shea, James McClean and Keiren Westwood, Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady, Sweden’s Seb Larsson and Belgium’s Simon Mignolet all face international friendlies on Wednesday – just three days before the Premier League gets underway.
O’Neill added: “As a club manager, these friendlies are still frustrating and I genuinely don’t see the point, particularly after the Euros.
“I understand international managers want to blood new talent, but I really don’t see the point.
“Arsenal away from home is a pretty intimidating task. Arsenal anywhere are pretty difficult.
“But it’s the opening day of the season and my immediate concern at this minute is that the players who are going away on international duty come back safe and sound.”