STEPHANE Sessegnon is ready to handle the weight of expectation on his shoulders after emerging as the pivotal figure in Sunderland’s attack.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce is confident Sessegnon will be a major force for Sunderland next season after thriving in the final five outings of last year.
The Benin international notched three times in that spell after initially taking his time to find his feet on Wearside following his £6million January move from Paris St Germain.
Sessegnon struggled with the language barrier, the pace and power of the Premier League and a lack of match sharpness after being frozen out at PSG following a dispute with manager Antoine Kombouare.
But Sessegnon shone in a more central position during the season’s finale, with Bruce ready to hand the 27-year-old the freedom of playing in the hole behind the striker.
In his first press interview since joining Sunderland, Sessegnon told SportMail: “I think there will be pressure on me this year because other players in the Premier League will know me now. I’ll have to adapt to that.
“But I think you’ve got to look at it positively and try to impose yourself on the opposition.
“It was hard when I first signed because I hadn’t even trained because of a conflict with the manager at PSG which dragged on.
“When I came in during the middle of the season, I hadn’t played for a bit and it took a bit of time to get up to scratch.
“Hopefully I’ll get the benefits from doing a full pre-season of preparation with my team-mates rather than arriving in January.
“One or two of the results weren’t good when I first signed too.
“But then to finish tenth was fantastic and the last four or five games, I started to feel like I was showing my best form. Hopefully I can repeat that.”
Sessegnon is in line to start the second outing of Sunderland’s pre-season tour here in Germany tonight as the Black Cats face a step up in opposition against Bundesliga high-fliers Hannover 96.
Sunderland’s squad were given some time off following the 1-1 draw with Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday, but were back on the training pitch yesterday afternoon with the most intense session so far of pre-season.
“We’ve had some difficult training sessions and earlier on in the tour we had some double ones,” added Sessegnon.
“But after recuperation over the last day and a bit, we had to get right into it again yesterday and get some intensity ready for the game.
“We’ve had some good preparations ahead of a big match tonight which will be a tough one.”