Sessegnon will come good, pledges Bruce
STEVE Bruce claims it is unfair to judge January signing Stephane Sessegnon on his first nine appearances in a Sunderland shirt. Sessegnon completed a £6m move from Paris St Germain in the final week of the transfer window and, since then, the Benin international has failed to appear in a winning Sunderland side. Eight of his nine appearances have ended in defeat, and while there have been glimpses of undoubted attacking talent, most notably in February's 3-2 defeat at Stoke, the 26-year-old has so far failed to live up to the expectations that accompanied him across the Channel. In an ideal world, Bruce would probably have used the attacking midfielder more sparingly, but with injuries piling up, particularly in the final third, the Black Cats boss has found his options limited. As a result, he feels it is wrong to judge Sessegnon on what he has produced this season, and claims the African will not really come into his own until next term. "I feel for the lad because he's a really good player, a huge talent, who will become a real favourite here," said Bruce. "I'm confident of that. "There are times I'd like to have blended Sessegnon in a bit more, leaving him out every now and then and then bringing him back into the side, but that hasn't been possible. "I'd like to have allowed him to settle in a bit more because the Premier League is a different kettle of fish for the foreigners. "We've brought foreign players in and, because of injuries, they've been thrown in at the deep end. Since January, it's become very difficult. But that's the way it is. We have to deal with it and see it through." With four senior players facing fitness tests ahead of today's game with Wigan, Sessegnon is likely to be back in the starting line-up as Sunderland look to arrest a nine-game winless run. Danny Welbeck has a chance of featuring, despite injuring his hamstring in last weekend's defeat at Birmingham, but fellow injury victim Kieran Richardson is less likely to be involved. Anton Ferdinand is a major doubt as he nurses a hamstring injury, while Sulley Muntari faces a late test on his injured calf. It has been another difficult week for the Academy of Light medical staff, with Craig Gordon and Fraizer Campbell both undergoing knee surgery. Gordon will miss the remainder of the season, while Campbell could be sidelined for up to 12 months, and while he accepts he is in danger of sounding like a broken record, Bruce claims the extent of the club's injury problems should not be overlooked. "If I could have picked a team without these injuries, we would not be in this position," he said. "But I can't put over that reason too often, because ultimately it's an excuse and that's what I don't want to give. "It is what it is. Without six or seven players, we're not capable of getting results against the top six. With them, we are capable, as we've proved for 18 months. "It pales into insignificance because it sounds like I'm making an excuse. I take the brunt of it and accept it, because that's the way it is." Today's game pits Bruce against the club he left to join Sunderland in June 2009. The North-Easterner spent almost two seasons at the DW Stadium, winning 23 of his 68 games in charge of the Latics. He was also responsible for signing a number of players who went on to bigger and better things, most notably Luis Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios, and enjoyed his time in Lancashire, even if he grew increasingly frustrated with a constant demand to sell his leading lights. "I had two spells at Wigan and enjoyed them both immensely," said Bruce, who also led the Latics for eight matches in 2001 before decamping to join Crystal Palace. "Dave Whelan is another football man and I enjoyed it. It was the right time for me. "In one calendar year, we took 63 points, which for a club like Wigan was terrific. I had a great time there. We had a top, top team, but then I had to sell players."
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