MICHAEL BEALE is delighted with Nazariy Rusyn’s progress at Sunderland – and claims the Ukrainian forward is becoming increasingly influential in dictating the Black Cats’ attacking play.

Having moved to Wearside in the summer from Zorya Luhansk, Rusyn spent the first half of the season struggling for game time as he acclimatised to life in the Championship.

He scored his first goal in a Sunderland shirt in the New Year’s Day win over Preston, and has subsequently established himself as Beale’s first-choice attacking option ahead of fellow summer signings Mason Burstow and Luis Hemir.

His second Black Cats goal enabled his side to claim a point in the Tees-Wear derby with Middlesbrough, and while he was not on target in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Plymouth Argyle, he led the line effectively as he linked play with his back to goal and tied up the opposition defence.

With his family now settled with him on Wearside, he appears to be much happier in his new surrounds, and while he might not be a regular goal threat in the remainder of the season, he is becoming more and more important when it comes to leading the press and setting the tone for Sunderland’s play in the final third.

“I think we’re seeing the player that the club bought in the summer,” said Beale, whose side return to action when they head to the John Smith’s Stadium to take on Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night. “I think we're seeing it more and more every game.


“The striker is there to score goals and we know that, but his work ethic for the team is really important. We want to be an aggressive team, we want to go and press the opposition, and he certainly brings that.”

Rusyn has benefited from game time with the Under-21s in the last month, scoring twice in a win over Leeds United at the end of January, and appears to be much more confident now he is being given an extended run in the first team.

While Tony Mowbray was willing to play without a recognised number nine, Beale is much more reluctant to shoehorn a midfielder into the central-attacking role, and Rusyn definitely seems to be benefiting from regular starting appearances.

He is starting to build relationships with those around him, with the likes of Jack Clarke and Jobe Bellingham perhaps having to rethink their own attacking play slightly now that at least part of their role is to create a supply line for Sunderland’s central striker.

“The more and more he (Rusyn) plays, the more I think you'll see our midfield picking his runs,” added Beale. “I think his movement is actually good, where we haven’t played with a striker this season.

“But do we always see his movement? Can we look forward quicker? We’re working on that. Naturally, you want to click your fingers and it all starts to work straight away, but I’m seeing good signs.”