SUNDERLAND will return to action after the international break with four centre-forwards battling for a place in Tony Mowbray’s starting line-up.

The quartet all moved to the Stadium of Light in the summer – and they are all still waiting for their first goal in a Sunderland shirt. How have they looked so far, and who might be the best long-term bet to lead the line for the Black Cats?


Appearances: 7 (+2 subs), Goals: 0, Assists: 1

The Northern Echo: Mason BurstowMason Burstow (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Burstow has been the most widely-tried of Sunderland’s forwards so far, mainly because he arrived at the end of the transfer window match ready thanks to his three senior appearances for Chelsea at the start of the campaign.

The 20-year-old looked reasonably sharp in his seven starts, and showed signs of being able to link-up play effectively, particularly during the 3-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, which featured his best display in a Sunderland shirt. Burstow set up Jack Clarke’s first goal at Hillsborough, and also won the penalty that enabled Clarke to score again towards the end of the first half.

Things haven’t been as impressive when Burstow has entered the 18-yard box though, with the youngster having failed to seriously test the opposition goalkeeper in any of his performances so far. For all his attacking attributes, he does not really look like a natural ‘number nine’.

Mowbray’s view: “Mason’s the one that we’ve gone to so far, really, because he’s athletic, he can run, and he closes people down well. He’s still a boy though, and he has to learn about double movements in the box and how to find space and make clever runs in behind. He’s trying to take that on board, but he’s still learning.”


Appearances: 1 (+11 subs), Goals: 0, Assists: 0

The Northern Echo: Luis HemirLuis Hemir (Image: Ian Horrocks)

After joining Sunderland at the start of July, Hemir played in a number of Sunderland’s pre-season matches and looked reasonably dangerous as he scored against South Shields and New Mexico United.

However, those performances have not translated into similarly effective displays in the Championship, with the 20-year-old having failed to reach the required standards in any of his competitive displays.


His solitary start came on the opening day of the season, when he failed to land a blow during Sunderland’s home defeat to Ipswich, and Mowbray has subsequently conceded that the Portuguese youngster is struggling to come to terms with the physicality and intensity of English football. That could change over time, although it was perhaps telling that Hemir was the only one of Sunderland’s strikers who was an unused substitute against Birmingham last time out.

Mowbray’s view: “We have to be good out of possession, to have a strategy to try to win the ball back. He needs to learn all that sort of stuff, being out of possession and how hard it is, where he needs to be and what lines he needs to cut off. When does he press, when does he sit? It’s a learning curve for him.”


Appearances: 3 (+5 subs), Goals: 0, Assists: 1

The Northern Echo: Nazariy RusynNazariy Rusyn (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Rusyn suffered a delayed start to his Sunderland career as complications over his visa meant he was unable to make his debut until the latter half of September.

Since then, he has had to bide his time, but he was handed his first start in last month’s win at Norwich and has now started the last three matches, with his performance levels gradually rising with each appearance.

Unlike his fellow forwards, Rusyn is 25 and boasts a reasonable amount of experience playing with Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk. He looks the most rounded of Sunderland’s attacking options, strong, athletic, decent in the air and able to get a shot away on either foot. His performance in the 3-1 win over Birmingham that preceded the international break was especially eye-catching, with Rusyn striking the post with a well-hit shot and setting up Jobe Bellingham’s opening goal with a deft flicked header from a corner.

Mowbray’s view: “Naz is a lovely lad. I was going to call him a kid, but he’s not a kid, he’s 25 now isn’t he. He’s alright – he’s quite tidy with the ball, he’s direct and he wants to run in behind. He knows his job is to try to score goals and be on the end of some of the moves that the wide players create.”


Appearances: 0 (+1 sub), Goals: 0, Assists: 0

The Northern Echo: Eliezer MayendaEliezer Mayenda (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Mayenda’s early days as a Sunderland player did not exactly go to plan, with the French teenager having suffered a hamstring injury during his very first training session at the Stadium of Light.

As a result, he was sidelined for around a month, and only made his Black Cats debut as a 74th-minute substitute in this month’s win over Birmingham. He made an instant impression though, driving into the left of the box and firing in a low shot that was well saved.

The evidence is admittedly limited, but Mayenda’s game appears to be all about pace, and the 18-year-old looks capable of stretching opposition defences and making the kind of darts in behind a back four that Sunderland have lacked for most of Mowbray’s tenure. The Sunderland boss is clearly excited by Mayenda’s potential – it will be interesting to see when he deems him ready to start.

Mowbray’s view: “He’s different to the players we’ve got. He’s left-footed, dynamic and can beat a man with speed and power. He looks exciting, but we need him to stay fit and then we can give him a chance properly.”