In 2024, Sunderland AFC is a football club that continues to show patience with its players.
Developing young talent is the name of our game and one player in particular who fits into this category is Nazariy Rusyn.
The Ukrainian forward was a long-term transfer target in the summer, and his signing was the result of Sunderland spending a couple of million pounds on a striker for the first time in a while.
Despite signing in late August, he had to wait until the end of October to get his first start, and since then there’s been no consistency in selection, either with Rusyn or any of the other strikers signed in the summer.
Rusyn is proof that it’s important to remember that footballers are humans, and that a move overseas is tough, with more going on than we see on the pitch.
He moved 1,500 miles away from home, without his family, to a country whose language he couldn’t speak. Moving away for work is something that many of us have done, but this must’ve been especially tough.
The Ukrainian has had to bide his time but since the turn of the year, Michael Beale’s determination to turn Sunderland into a more direct side has been hugely beneficial.
For weeks, he’s been making brilliant forward runs but hasn’t been picked out by our midfielders. He’s had more success with this in the U23’s and his two goals at Leeds last week were the result of his movement being rewarded.
Transpose that into the first team and we might see Rusyn click as a forward in a Sunderland shirt.
During his last few appearances, he’s also seemed happier. This surely has something to do with his family now being in England, but perhaps it’s also that he’s being trusted more by his new boss.
He was brought off the bench to help Sunderland get back into the game on Sunday, and in less than half an hour he proved a real handful for the Middlesbrough backline with his pace and runs.
His goal was an example of him peeling away into space and being picked out by a winger, which is something that just hasn’t happened enough this season.
Of course there was an element of good fortune about the goal, but Rusyn made the run, struck the ball sweetly on the half volley and got it on target from the edge of the box. It was a goal worthy of his efforts and Sunderland’s patience with him.
Rusyn is definitely coming good, and he’s making a strong claim to be Sunderland’s main man up top.
His movement and finishing instincts are something that Sunderland spotted a mile off, and developing him into a Championship forward is one of several projects the club is currently undertaking.
The Ukrainian’s progression is something that both he and the club should be complimented for.
The frustration at not signing a ‘ready made’ striker during the last few windows has been getting louder, but if we actually develop the forwards we have, maybe those voices will start to quieten down sooner rather than later.