MARTIN O’Neill said he was reluctant to let any more players leave the Stadium of Light until further new signings come in.
The Black Cats have so far allowed 18 players to leave the club since the end of last season – although that figure includes three loan signings and a host of young players.
But there’s no shortage of clubs still circling for more Sunderland players, with David Meyler, Ahmed Elmohamady, Fraizer Campbell and Kieran Richardson all attracting interest.
But the manager, speaking before the late arrival of Adam Johnson yesterday, said that until his own squad-strengthening was pretty much complete, he was unwilling to contemplate allowing others to go and risk leaving himself short.
He said: “At the moment, I understand players wanting to play, genuinely wanting to play football. I think that’s admirable. It’s refreshing.
“But while I know that I can only play so many per game, at the end of the day, we haven’t got the biggest squad at the moment.
“And that – added to the fact that we are looking at loaning some of our younger players out to get some games because they want to play competitively – makes it difficult.
“It’s a balancing act for me. I’m aware that there is interest in some of my players but I will have to see.”
Two of the players attracting much interest are David Meyler and Ahmed Elmohamady – both used as substitutes in the Arsenal game last week – with former Sunderland manager Steve Bruce admitting he would love to take both to Hull.
O’Neill told the Echo: “I like David Meyler. I like him as a person – he could well be my favourite person at the club. He’s a great character to have around.
“I don’t think there’s a nasty bone in his body, except that he’ll run through brick walls for you if you ask him. He’s been really good and he wants to play games. Ahmed Elmohamady is the same.
“But they both did well against Arsenal at the weekend when they came on, so I will have to see. Everything is tempered by what happens in the next week or so.”
It remains to be seen, though, whether Johnson’s arrival last night will now open the way for more exits.