Michael Gray: Left-back is key for Sunderland

Michael Gray.
Michael Gray.
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MICHAEL Gray believes Sunderland need fresh blood in his old position of left-back, as much as they need to boost their forward line.

Sunderland remain in the hunt for at least one new striker this summer, with the end of Nicklas Bendtner’s loan spell, coupled with Asamoah Gyan’s defection to the United Arab Emirates, leaving Martin O’Neill’s attacking options thin on the ground.

Wolves hitman Steven Fletcher and Aston Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor are thought to be among the frontmen O’Neill is targeting.

But former Sunderland defender Gray (left) believes a new left-back is just as crucial to Sunderland’s hopes next season after right-back Phil Bardsley and midfielder Kieran Richardson have occupied that role for the bulk of the last two years.

Gray told the Echo: “They have got to bring in some quality up front with one or two strikers. Personally, I think they probably need more than one.

“But I am certain that Martin O’Neill has got the players he wants in mind.

“Steven Fletcher has been mentioned a lot and he’s someone I would like to see at the club.

“But they also need to bring in a new left-back, they’re crying out for it.

“Phil Bardsley has played there and done well but they need a natural in that position.

“The same applies to Kieran Richardson, who has done a good job, but is a left winger really.”

Gray himself was converted into a left-back under Peter Reid after beginning his career further forward.

Former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce attempted to do a similar thing with Richardson after dropping the ex-Manchester United man back into defence.

But Gray believes Richardson still prefers to play further up the field and says that if O’Neill can land a specialist full-back, then Sunderland’s backline will benefit.

“I came as a left winger but Peter Reid saw something in me to switch me to left-back and I came to love playing in that position,” added the former England international.

“Kieran has developed there, but he likes to play off the frontman and score goals. That’s his forte.

“Sunderland need to be a bit more solid defensively and if you can add a specialist left-back to the back four, then you reap the rewards.

“So it would be nice for us to get a left-back and if Martin can do that, then Sunderland can realistically challenge in the top 10.”