O'NEILL HOPEFUL OVER SESSEGNON STAY

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has reitertated his desire to keep Stephane Sessegnon.

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Stephane Sessegnon: Denied move rumours

Stephane Sessegnon: Denied move rumours

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has signalled his intention to hang onto his best players after Stephane Sessegnon played down speculation he could leave the club this summer.

Sessegnon this week moved to scotch persistent rumours that he is unhappy on Wearside, with former club Paris St Germain and Arsenal reportedly among those clubs monitoring his situation.

The 27-year-old Benin international's comments simply backed up what O'Neill himself has been saying for weeks, although the Ulsterman was unaware that Sessegnon had gone public.

O'Neill said: "I didn't know he had said anything publicly, I must admit. I didn't know he had spoken, the oracle, and I am delighted he has done.

"He won the player of the year at the meeting of the supporters' club, and I think he was genuinely pleased with that.

"The trophy that he picked up is about four inches bigger than he is. He seemed in decent form."

The diminutive striker, who was signed by O'Neill's predecessor Steve Bruce for £6million in January last year, has proved vital in the Black Cats' fightback from a poor start to the campaign which ultimately cost Bruce his job.

His invention and goals - he is currently joint top scorer with Nicklas Bendtner and Sebastian Larsson on eight - have proved invaluable, and O'Neill is keen to retain his services as he plots the way forward.

O'Neill added with a smile: "If he puts in performances like he put in last week [against Bolton], then we might have some other thoughts on that - he was rubbish.

"But he's been a terrific player for us, really terrific, and I am delighted with him.

"Obviously, we have to try to keep the best players. The only way for us to progress is to keep our best players, and Sessegnon definitely comes into that category."

Sessegnon will have another opportunity to add to his goals tally at Fulham on Sunday with Larsson out for the rest of the season after groin surgery and Bendtner, like defender John O'Shea, battling a foot injury.

One man who will not be involved is forgotten man Titus Bramble, although he has been back in training after recovering from an Achilles problem, and while O'Neill has suggested he is unlikely to taste first-team action again this season, he is not ruling it out.

He said: "Titus has trained for about the last 10 days with us and he has had no ill effects, which has been good.

"Last week he had just trained a few days so I said would give him an extra week, but each day he has trained there has been no reaction, so that's progression for us."

Asked if the 30-year-old could figure in either of the two remaining games - Fulham at the weekend and title-chasing Manchester United at the Stadium of Light seven days later - O'Neill replied: "We have got two games to go. He is doing very well.

"Let's say if there was a month left in the season, I would have genuinely had no doubt about it, if he continues the sort of progress he is making.

"The two games might be a bit tight, but I am not sure. He is feeling much, much better each day."

Bramble, who is facing trial on allegations of sexual assault later this month, has been out of action since damaging his Achilles against Everton on Boxing Day.

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