Sunderland’s O’Shea has no doubts at Saha quality

John O'Shea
John O'Shea
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JOHN O’SHEA says former Manchester United team-mate Louis Saha’s injury record shouldn’t mask the French striker’s quality.

Saha is in line to make his Sunderland home debut in tonight’s Capital One Cup second round clash with Morecambe after Saturday’s Stadium of Light encounter with Reading fell victim to the weather.

The 34-year-old’s arrival on Wearside has been slightly overshadowed by the £22million double signing of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson.

But O’Shea, who spent four-and-a-half years at Old Trafford with Saha, believes Martin O’Neill has produced a real coup in signing the free agent.

The only question mark surrounding Saha has always been his fitness after a career blighted by injury – the former France international even considered retiring in 2010/11 due to calf and ankle problems.

But centre-half O’Shea says if Sunderland can keep Saha away from the treatment room, Black Cats supporters will see both his work-rate and prowess as a striker after he was released by Spurs at the end of last season.

O’Shea told the Echo: “I’m well aware of Louis’s quality and delighted we’ve signed him.

“To be honest, I was amazed he was a free transfer.

“People have spoken about his injury record, but I know for a fact how hard Louis works.

“He’s been so unfortunate lots of times and, if we can keep Louis Saha fit, he can be one hell of a player.”

Saha, who made his Sunderland bow as a second-half substitute on the opening day at Arsenal 10 days ago, could start tonight with £12million striker Fletcher short of fitness after being troubled by an ankle problem during pre-season.

But it is not just on the pitch where O’Neill is hoping Saha can make his mark.

O’Neill wanted to boost his frontline with an experienced head, capable of passing on his knowledge to rookie striking trio Connor Wickham, Ji Dong-won and Ryan Noble.

And in Saha, O’Shea believes O’Neill has found the perfect man for the job.

The Republic of Ireland international added: “We needed some experience up there and there’ll be no better player for our strikers to learn from than Louis.

“He’s great in the air, he can shoot with his left foot and right foot and he’s a threat in behind as well.

“It’s a fantastic addition by the manager, he’s definitely pulled one out of the hat there.”