MARTIN O’Neill admits Louis Saha has been “disappointed” with the start of his Sunderland career, but suggested the French striker may have had unrealistic hopes.
The 34-year-old is still awaiting his first Black Cats goal and has been overlooked since December 8.
It would be no surprise if he was not on the bench for today’s Premier League visit of West Ham United.
Manager O’Neill is relatively relaxed about the free transfer’s impact – or lack of it – but admits the player has found it hard to take.
He said: “I think Louis has been a bit disappointed. When he first came, I told him I wasn’t expecting miracles of him. He’d done no pre-season training but I was hoping, over a period of time, he would make an impact.
“There was talk about us being interested in Bolton Wanderers’ Kevin Davies last season, and I thought he might have been able to come in and do a half-decent job himself, but also help improve the young centre-forwards like Connor Wickham.
“It’s been really tough for Louis. In training, in the small-sided games, he’s been absolutely terrific.
“He’s a bit disappointed he hasn’t been able to take that on to the field.
“He’s getting a bit older and he has found the going a bit difficult.” Saha’s struggles have allowed Wickham to move up the pecking order and the teenager’s first goal since October 2011 has raised the possibility of a forward partnership with Steven Fletcher.
O’Neill added: “I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a partnership.
“I suppose it changes the formation of the team somewhat if you’re going with Connor because he’s essentially a centre-forward, unlike Stéphane Sessègnon who plays in the hole. His performances have given me food for thought and that’s been very encouraging.”
If Wickham is picked it could mean a wide role for Sessègnon.