Sunderland's smartest move of the transfer window: Sessegnon persuaded to stay

Posted by Colin Randall

If I were Martin O'Neill or Ellis Short, respectively manager and owner of Sunderland AFC, I'd have been yelling this out from the rooftops.

Instead it is tucked away in the news section of the official club site: Stephane Sessegnon, an attacking midfielder of such quality that some older supporters consider him as good as they've seen in Sunderland colours,, has signed a contract extension.

Without the slightest disrespect to Adam Johnson or Steve Fletcher, our hugely welcome big-money signings, or Louis Saha and Carlos Cuellar, brought to the club on frees and already making their mark, this is the announcement most fans longed to hear and feared they wouldn't. I am doing my best to avoid an ugly phrase that has crept into footballspeak but "marquee signing" is indeed how keeping Sess feels.

O'Neill, I am told, recently confided to what I shall call an inner circle of Sunderland faithful that the creative Beninese player's agent had been busily sounding out options for a move. The manager remained hopeful he could convince him to stay, but even that had to be measured against persistent talk of interest from Spurs, Arsenal and Man City and word from apparently well-informed French sports journalists that he wanted to leave Sunderland.

Sessegnon's difficulties in settling properly in the North East of England, with his wife and children back in Paris (his last club was Paris Saint-Germain), have been well documented. But so has O'Neill's indulgence, permitting him to beetle off back to France at every opportunity. I imagine that will continue though I trust the boss has made it clear this should not be taken as a green light to pick up strategic suspensions and injuries.

But the truth is that Sunderland supporters will be grateful for whatever it was that O'Neill was able to produce, in material ways as well as moral encouragement, to guide the Sessegnon hand towards the bit on the contract extension requiring his signature. My own hunch is that the afore-mentioned inward transfers, and the ambition they reflected, played no small part.

"The Beninese star is now under contract at the Stadium of Light until 2015," the club site announced.

It was as low-key as if doing no more than noting details of forthcoming ticket availability, though the writer did then become a little more excited: "Sessegnon is the club’s reigning Player of the Season and has been a huge hit since moving to Wearside from Paris Saint-Germain in January 2011."

Sess was comfortably Salut! Sunderland's player of the season, too.

But however it is dressed up - or down - this is the single most important communiqué from Sunderland AFC since O'Neill himself was appointed manager in December of last year.

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