MARTIN O’NEILL admits he couldn’t promise James McFadden any greater first-team exposure before the Scot re-joined boyhood club Motherwell.
McFadden this week penned a deal until the end of the season with the SPL outfit after making just three substitute appearances for Sunderland before his short-term contract at the Stadium of Light expired last month.
Black Cats boss O’Neill was contemplating offering the 29-year-old a new contract at the Stadium of Light, with a view to loaning him out to the Championship for a month to get some competitive football under his belt.
But with Nottingham Forest – before the dismissal of Alex McLeish – along with SPL duo Motherwell and Aberdeen both prepared to offer McFadden his desired regular first-team slot, Sunderland never reached the stage where the former Everton forward was handed a concrete offer.
O’Neill told the Echo: “The lad needs to play some competitive games and I couldn’t guarantee that here, although I was hoping we might have resolved something.
“We never got round to offering him anything.
“His contract ran out here just before the transfer deadline.
“I was sitting down with James and I had a couple of thoughts of what I could do with him, really wanting him to try to get some football, as it was difficult to get him in here.
“The positions I thought he was going to be playing in, it was hard for him.
“Remember, it was before the transfer deadline and we were pursuing other things at the time, too, so he went down with Alex to Nottingham Forest for a day or two.
“When that fell through, he couldn’t wait any longer and ended up signing for Motherwell.”
McFadden, himself, admits he was impatient to secure his future and after waiting a month for a firm offer, proposed contract negotiations with Motherwell boss Stuart McCall, following a week training at Fir Park.
“I had made my mind up that I wanted to come back and get involved as soon as possible,” said McFadden.
“I went a month out of contract and nothing was happening.
“There were a couple of maybes, but there wasn’t anything concrete. I didn’t want to wait and try to follow up maybes, I just wanted to get back playing.
“The longer I left it, the more I was itching to get back playing.
“I’ve got a soft spot for the club and I’ve got the chance to play football every week.”