SUNDERLAND ARE in the hunt for long-term signings during January despite holding talks over a loan move for former nemesis Tim Cahill.
Ex-Everton midfielder Cahill, who netted seven times in 14 appearances against Sunderland, has emerged as a short-term fix for Martin O’Neill, as he looks to boost his depleted options in the middle of the park.
Cahill moved across the Atlantic to New York Red Bulls during the summer and would only be available for a couple of months over the MLS close season.
But with Lee Cattermole sidelined until February and Phil Bardsley’s lack of match fitness forcing Craig Gardner to play at right-back, Sunderland are in discussions for Cahill to provide some midfield support over the winter.
Sunderland’s interest in Cahill does not signal though that O’Neill is purely restricting his radar to short-term solutions when the transfer window opens tomorrow.
Black Cats owner Ellis Short is prepared to back O’Neill, even though the American had originally envisaged a quiet January at the Stadium of Light.
Short realises that O’Neill’s hand needs strengthening – with Sunderland lingering five points above the bottom three – and the Black Cats boss is keen to add some muscle and quality to his ranks this month.
Ideally, O’Neill would like to recruit players who can benefit Sunderland in the long-term, in the same manner of summer recruits Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher.
But O’Neill has shown he is also prepared to operate in the loan market during his 12 months in charge on Wearside, albeit neither of last January’s stop-gap recruits Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos proved a success.
Sunderland have also been linked with a loan move for England centre-half Joleon Lescott, who has started a modest 11 top flight games for Manchester City this season.
Lescott, also rumoured to be interesting former club Everton, has fallen down Roberto Mancini’s pecking order despite playing a pivotal role in last season’s title success.
City are reportedly ready to let the 30-year-old leave the Etihad, although his estimated £90,000 a week wages would scupper the hopes of the bulk of the division, including Sunderland.
If City were prepared to pay a portion of his wages though – as they did last season with Bridge – then it could be a viable loan switch.
Certainly, O’Neill is keen to strengthen his central defensive options, particularly after John O’Shea limped out of Saturday’s defeat to Spurs with a hamstring problem.
O’Neill has been keeping close tabs on Genoa defender Andreas Granqvist, although the Swede is wanted by several leading clubs across Europe.
But with Wes Brown still on the treatment table and Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon both out of contract at the end of the season, it is an area which O’Neill is keen to address.