MARTIN O’Neill’s pursuit of a striker failed yesterday.
But the Sunderland manager succeeded in bringing in two experienced defenders who will ensure the club’s stretched rearguard does not reach breaking point this season.
Manchester City left-back Wayne Bridge and Wolfsburg centre-half Sotirios Kyrgiakos both arrived on loan deals until the end of the campaign, easing the manager’s fears at the back with three centre-halves sidelined.
Wes Brown, Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble are all out injured, though none of the trio are expected to be out for too long, and the acquisition of Bridge and Kyrgiakos will give O’Neill room to manoeuvre in the short term.
The 32-year Greek defender, formerly of Liverpool and Rangers, gives Sunderland insurance in case of injuries to last remaining fit centre-halves, John O’Shea and Michael Turner.
But in 31-year-old former England international Bridge, Sunderland have their first specialist left-back since George McCartney.
Although he will need time to get fully match-fit, having not played first-team football since September, the former Chelsea man could be a real asset if O’Neill can get the best out of him.
If Bridge locks down the left-back position in the weeks ahead, that would free Jack Colback and Kieran Richardson to add strength in depth further up the field, increasing the squad’s depth over a range of positions.
Bridge became O’Neill’s first Sunderland signing yesterday afternoon and the manager commented: “I’m hoping that with Wayne’s experience and ability he can be a big help to the team.
“With the number of injuries we’ve sustained recently, I’m sure he’ll be a great help to us.”
Sunderland are expected to pay somewhere in the region of £20,000 of the defender’s £90,000 weekly wage and Bridge, who came close to joining Reading earlier in the month, said: “I’m delighted to make the move. I have met the manager and the lads and everyone seems great.
“I’m just excited to start playing football and playing a few games. The club is on the up.”
Kyrgiakos will be forgiven if he hopes to deal with some unfinished business in English football, having attracted praise and criticism in equal measure during a two-season spell at Anfield from 2009-11.
O’Neill said: “Sotirios offers a real physical presence coupled with a wealth of experience which will be an undoubted benefit to us in the next few months.
“I’m delighted to welcome him to the club and I’m sure he is looking forward to the challenge of returning to the Premier League.”
Kyrgiakos began his career with Athens side Panathinaikos, spending two of his first seven years in Greek football on loan at Agios Nikolaos.
After sealing the Greek domestic double with Panathinaikos in 2004 the 6ft 4in defender moved to Rangers in January, 2005 picking up an SPL winners’ medal and a Scottish League Cup winners’ medal in his first season – scoring twice in the final.
He then moved to German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt in 2006, spending two years there before returning home for a season with AEK Athens before Rafa Benitez took him to Liverpool.