MIKE DODDS admits Nazariy Rusyn will be under pressure to perform next season, but remains confident the Sunderland striker is capable of succeeding in the Championship.

Rusyn joined the Black Cats from Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk last summer, but struggled to make an impact in his first season in England.

The 25-year-old scored just two goals in his 22 senior outings in a Sunderland shirt, with Dodds eventually opting to play without a natural centre-forward, such was the lack of goalscoring threat posed by the club’s strikers.

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Rusyn arrived on Wearside with a decent reputation, having started his career with Dynamo Kyiv and previously been a regular with Ukraine at Under-21 level, but found himself having to overcome a series of obstacles during his first few months with his new employers.

“I think his season has been a little bit clunky in that he's come into the club and doesn't speak the language, which I always think is difficult for any player,” said Dodds. “There was an issue with the visa for his family and so he initially was here by himself, that wasn't the initial plan and so I think that was probably a bit of a hammer blow for him at the time.

“Then you factor in all the other things, a completely different style of play, a different part of the world. It's a different way of life. When you actually reflect, Naz is one who you would probably want more from, but to have expected more from him would have been really harsh.”


Nevertheless, expectations will be raised next season, when Rusyn will be challenged to prove his worth.

The forward has been sidelined through injury for the last two months, but should be back to full fitness by the time the pre-season programme begins later this summer.

Sunderland will almost certainly add to their attacking ranks when the transfer window reopens, but the hope is that Rusyn will develop into a key part of their preferred line-up.

“Naz started training last week so he's fine,” said Dodds. “If the season had run for another week then I think he would have featured.

“I do think from the start of next season, pre-season is going to be really important for him because I think those factors we’ve been talking about have been taken away really.

“His family are here with him, his language has got a lot better, he's a lot more settled in the region and has got a place (for his home). So, there'll be a little more pressure on him, but I think we'll see a better reflection of him as a player.”