Goalscorers a priority in Martin O’Neill’s summer shake-up

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Kieran Richardson

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Kieran Richardson

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MARTIN O’Neill says he is looking forward to reshaping his squad this summer, with the search for strikers top of his shopping list.

The Sunderland boss has taken stock of the squad he inherited from Steve Bruce in December and will allow some players to leave while at the same time bringing others in.

But his main priority will be to recruit forwards who are more prolific than any he can currently call on.

“I have a fairly decent idea of what I want,” he said.

“Myself and Ellis Short will have a conversation about that in the not too distant future.There is no doubt we are getting down to some serious work in the future.

“We need at least two players getting well into double figures.

“Have I made serious inroads? No, I have not.”

After five months at the helm, O’Neill feels that there is not much more he can learn about his current squad of players in the remaining couple of matches, against Fulham this weekend and Man United next.

“I have a good idea of the abilities of the players who have played regularly for me,” he agreed. “The last two games won’t make a massive difference to my thinking.

“But contracts are not up for all players so pre-season becomes important for some of them and it could be a chance for them to play a bigger part.”

Among the players who could be leaving in the summer are £9m goalkeeper Craig Gordon, on a Bosman free transfer and long-serving Kieran Richardson.

But O’Neill won’t be drawn into writing the Sunderland obituaries of either player just yet – aware of the quality of both and impressed with Gordon’s return to first-team action last weekend.

“If Craig had concerns about his fitness, he will have alleviated those concerns. He did very well in the game against Bolton last weekend.

“He would have been anxious and rusty but he came through it well. I have been a big admirer of him for a long time.

“I do know we have three keepers and two of them still in contract. Can I keep all three? I would have thought it unlikely.”

O’Neill did not want to talk in detail about Richardson’s situation, preferring instead to give an overview.

“I will deal as a team, not individuals,” he said.

“I imagine there will be an interest in players from our club and we will be interested in others.

“Kieran has a year left to run and we will sit with him and his agent at the end of the season to discuss his future.”