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O’Neill keeps hold of Sessegnon
WHILE all the talk on Wearside this week has been about the arrivals of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher, manager Martin O’Neill admits the news that Stephane Sessegnon has signed a contract extension is just as important for the club.
Sessegnon had been widely tipped to leave the Stadium of Light during the transfer window for a number of reasons, but the Benin international has penned a new deal which will keep him on Wearside until 2015.
The striker, Sunderland’s joint-top scorer last season with Nicklas Bendtner was understood to be unhappy with life on Wearside amid speculation his family couldn’t settle in the North-East.
That prompted interest from a host of clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St Germain.
O’Neill continued to publicly play down those suggestions, but admitted yesterday that he was worried he could lose the talented attacker.
“Back end of last season, there was a concern that something might happen but thankfully nothing ever materialised,”
“It (the new contract) was not given an extra year on the back of someone coming in and making an unbelievable offer.
“It just didn’t materialise“Whether they stayed away from it, whether they had other options on their mind, maybe it was a big thought in May and like a lot of managers or clubs, they perhaps change their minds and go to other things, we did not have that to contend with but it was still important to get another year from him and make him a bit more content, if that is the case.
“There has been lots of speculation so I am delighted to put it to bed. We have him for extra time now and hopefully he will settle down and be the player he was last season.”
After the departure of Bendtner at the end of last season and the slow progress over the first few months of the transfer window, Sessegnon may have been biding his time over the extended contract offer.
However, having seen Johnson and Fletcher arrive, as well as Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha, O’Neill accepts their arrivals could have persuaded the Benin man to sign on the dotted line.
“I was naturally concerned, but when he sees likes of Fletcher and Johnson coming into the club that will be a weight of his mind although he very much keeps his thoughts to himself,’’ said O’Neill.
“But overall I’m very pleased to have him and when he returns to real proper sharpness I hope he will be force he was last season.
“He had a great period last season and may be tailed off like rest of us maybe when our Premier League status had been achieved and he got a little bit tired.
“He is fresher now. He didn’t have that much pre-season so I thought once or twice on Tuesday (against Morecambe) a sharper Sess would have seen the opening that he would normally do but I have not got a problem with him I am delighted with him.”
Now he has secured Sessegnon for a further year, O’Neill will try to bring in more new faces before the transfer window closes tonight.
Ahmed Elmohamady joined former boss Steve Bruce at Hull City on a season- long loan yesterday and Kieran Richardson could exit today.
The versatile player has held talks with Fulham and it isn’t out of the question that his transfer could include a swap deal for Clint Dempsey.
O’Neill refused to rule out a move for the American yesterday, although he did reveal that he would be looking to sign a replacement left-back should Richardson depart.
The club has been discussing a loan move for Tottenham’s Danny Rose and hope to push that through once Richardson’s move is complete.