FORMER Sunderland midfielder Paul Bracewell insists Martin O’Neill’s summer signings shouldn’t be judged on their price tag.
The Wearsiders have made just one foray into the transfer market since the end of last season, with former Aston Villa centre-half Carlos Cuellar arriving at the Stadium of Light on a Bosman deal.
While Sunderland escaped paying a transfer fee for the 30-year-old, the Black Cats have also been linked with big-money moves for the likes of Steven Fletcher, Gabby Agbonlahor and Aiden McGeady.
But Bracewell says the quality, rather than the cost, of O’Neill’s new recruits will determine Sunderland’s success next season.
“Martin always keeps his cards very close to his chest, but I’m sure he’s identified where he wants to strengthen and hopefully he can do that,” said Bracewell.
“It’s all about players and if you get the right ones, it doesn’t matter whether it costs you £100,000, £9million or £29million.
“If you get good players in, good team spirit, that’s what it’s all about.
“Martin will know what he wants, he’ll know what he’s looking for and I’m sure he’ll have made his mind up and will try to strengthen this summer.”
Like many, Bracewell, who made 270 appearances in three spells for the Black Cats, was impressed by O’Neill’s resurrection of Sunderland last season after the former Villa boss succeeded Steve Bruce.
And the 49-year-old believes the top eight is a realistic objective for Sunderland this season, provided O’Neill suitably boosts Sunderland’s options before the end of the transfer window.
“Martin came in and did a fantastic job – he’s a proven, top-class manager,” added Bracewell.
“He came in and didn’t make too many changes.
“He worked with the same players, which wasn’t a bad thing because he had a real good chance to have a look at them on and off the field.
“I imagine he’ll be working really hard this summer to get some more players in and then they’ll be looking to finish next season in the top 10, top eight.
“He’ll want to get them as high as possible.
“Expectations will be high, like most big clubs, he’ll know that.
“He’ll want to do it in stages, but, make no mistake, he’ll want to finish as high as he can.”