CONNOR WICKHAM’S imminent signing deservedly hogged the headlines today.
But Sunderland have quietly made important progress on two other deals, with efforts to sign South Korean striker Ji Dong-won and Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner moving a step closer to completion.
Ji has been over to Sunderland for successful negotiations over a £2million transfer which his club Chunnam Dragons had already accepted.
But the sticking point was always likely to be a work permit – a red tape issue which could drag on for weeks, if not months, as previous signing Paolo Da Silva found to his cost.
That, though, now looks as if won’t be a problem, clearing the last obstacle to the signing of the 20-year-old striker who has been in excellent form in front of goal for his country in recent months and is rated as one of the best prospects in Asia.
Ji’s signature is now expected to be announced over the next few days, as is that of Gardner.
The 24-year-old midfielder – Birmingham’s top scorer last season – has been keen to come to Sunderland since the Black Cats’ interest first emerged and with City having agreed a £5m move, is in the process of tying up the move.
He has now successfully completed a medical and is set to follow Ipswich striker Wickham in signing for the Wearsiders by the end of the week.
It means a new-look Sunderland is now really beginning to shape.
The five new signings will change the whole style of Sunderland’s play and with the likes of Manchester United’s John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Darron Gibson, along with, potentially, Charles N’Zogbia on the horizon, Steve Bruce’s side will be playing a whole new brand of football next season.
If the change of personnel works out the way the manager intends, Sunderland will have addressed the defensive issues which caused them problems last season and added a physical dimension to their play which was lacking last season. In Larsson, they will have gained a greater threat from set-pieces; in Wickham, a target-man figure up front again.
And the manager will also have moved to relieve the goal-scoring burden on the strikers by introducing a raft of players in midfield capable of getting on the scoresheet themselves.