MIKE DODDS admits that Nazariy Rusyn’s limited grasp of English continues to make it difficult to get the best out of the striker.

Rusyn could barely speak a word of English when he joined the Black Cats from Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk in the summer.

He has been trying to learn the language in the last six months, but remains far from fluent both in terms of speaking English and understanding when others are conversing with him in the language.

The situation is far from ideal, and just as Tony Mowbray and Michael Beale have both had to try to bridge the language divide, so Dodds also finds himself having to come up with alternative ways of communicating with the 25-year-old.

“This is not an excuse because I would never make excuses,” said Sunderland’s interim head coach. “There is, not an issue, but his English is limited.

“So, in terms of being really clear with what you want, that’s a speed bump for us. But he trains properly, he wants to get better.”

Rusyn has spent most of his time in Sunderland’s first team playing as a central striker, although he has also played in a wide-attacking role for both the senior side and the Under-21s.


His record of two goals from 19 senior appearances is far from impressive, but Dodds insists his effort and commitment cannot be questioned.

“Is he a striker? It's a good question,” he said. “I think he can play in all three positions (across the frontline). What Naz does give you, he's a really honest player. You know he's going to give you 100 per cent.

“I think he can play in all three areas. Naz doesn't really have any preference. He sees himself as a front half of the pitch player. I can see him playing all three positions.

“We decided to do something (on Saturday, against Swansea) and unfortunately we didn't get him in the areas of the pitch we wanted to get him in.”

Sunderland signed four strikers last summer, one of whom, Eliezer Mayenda, has subsequently left to join Hibernian on loan.

Rusyn, Mason Burstow and Luis Hemir remain in the first-team squad, but have scored just three goals between them all season.

“Of course it’s a challenge to get goals out of the strikers,” said Dodds. “But it’s not just the strikers. We have to hurt the opposition goal more, and I'll be judged on that.

“As a collective, players and staff, we have to hurt the opposition goal. It's not just the number nines. We have to do more in and around the box, that's not just a nine issue, that's a collective issue.”