MARTIN O’Neill thought long and hard about the experienced striker he wanted at the head of his Sunderland squad before plumping for Louis Saha this week.
The Black Cats manager revealed he had been more pre-occupied with the search for emerging players who would spend their best years at the Stadium of Light, rather than the veteran who would help guide them on.
But having eventually considered a host of possibilities and settling on the 34-year-old ex-Manchester United, Everton and Spurs man, O’Neill was delighted to tie the deal up so quickly this week and have the player in the squad for today’s trip to the Emirates.
“In truth, Saha was mentioned very early on in the summer and I was aware that he was available,” he revealed, as he considered this week’s signing.
“I wasn’t exactly sure about his plans after talking to his agent, whether he wanted to move back to the south of France, as seemed likely, or whether he still wanted to be in the Premier League.
“We left it for a number of weeks, but what I want is some younger people who can be around the scene for a few seasons.
“I always knew that regardless of whether we got those players in, we would want backup.
“There are a number of players in Europe in a similar situation to Louis, but I thought just recently that he would be the best option.
“For one, he’s played in the Premier League, and two he wanted a challenge again, at least for one more season.
“He felt that last season he was just getting into his stride.
“Of course he’s a decent player, if he can stay clear of injury.
“So from that viewpoint, I was aware of him for some time, but didn’t act until pretty recently.”
Having decided on Saha, he was pleased at how quickly the move was tied up.
He said: “He really wanted to come here and I think that was the pleasing thing.
“It didn’t take long at all to sort out.” But O’Neill was quick to point out that Saha will not be the only extra firepower he hopes to add before the end of the transfer window.
“It’s absolutely not the end of our search for strikers,” he confirmed.
“I think it’s obvious we need some goal power, and, with respect, if you’re expecting Louis to play the number of games that somebody younger could, I think that would be expecting a lot.
“He’s here to help us, and if he plays more games than I expect him to, that would be a real bonus.
“We’re in the hunt for players and I would hope that come the end of the deadline, we would have the players that will make the squad competitive and hopefully more than that.”